Glenda and Kent Duell - How the NYS DEC Impacted a New York Family Trying to do the Right Thing

"An Adirondack Tragedy, Courtesy of DEC", Thurman, NY - March 2001

We stand today as convicted felons... we didn't do anything wrong.

This video tells the unbelievably sad story of Kent and Glenda Duell’s fifteen-year life-changing ordeal over a leaky septic system. It is a shocking example of what the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) can do to ordinary people whose septic system malfunctions.

Their saga began in 1992. At that time, they owned a home in the Town of Thurman in the Adirondacks and a multi- unit apartment building in the Town of Minerva – also in the Adirondacks. On several occasions the septic system overflowed. They worked with local code officials to fix the system each time it malfunctioned and had the work approved by H.U.D. as they renovated the apartment building pursuant to a federal housing grant program. They believed they were following the law as they consulted the proper government officials and engineers.

One morning in October 1995, a large number of DEC officers gathered near the Duell home, planning to arrest both Kent and Glenda for their septic system problems. The officers hid in the woods, waiting for the school bus to leave with the Duells’ two children, not knowing that the children attended a Christian school and did not take the public school bus.

The officers arrested and handcuffed Kent in the presence of his children; arrested Glenda, as her children watched; and took Kent, Glenda and their children more than 50 miles to the Essex County courthouse to be arraigned by a county judge.

Incredibly, Kent and Glenda were each charged with 63 felonies. They were facing $42 million in fines and 1,200 years in prison – all for a malfunctioning septic system.

Their saga continued through two lengthy trials in county court, 63 felony convictions for both Kent and Glenda, six-month jail sentences and five-year probation sentences for each. They each went to jail. They lost their apartment building and home as a result, and were ordered to pay $136,000 in fines.

Their story received media attention in the US and Canada. Fortunately, supportive friends, appalled by DEC’s actions, solicited donations to help them and bought their home back. Glenda went to jail first – then Kent. In 2010, Kent and Glenda requested a pardon from former Governor David Paterson and were informed that they had missed a deadline, but could re-apply in 2011.

No one went to jail in the Alaskan Exxon Valdez oil spill or the BP oil spoil in the Gulf of Mexico – but Kent and Glenda did – because they had septic problems.

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