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The former owner of a Youngstown, Ohio, excavating company pled guilty to illegally dumping thousands of gallons of contaminated fracking wastewater into a storm drain that led to the Mahoning River.
Benedict Lupo, 63, will be sentenced on June 16 for violating the Clean Water Act. His sentence could range from probation to up to three years in federal prison. The federal prosecutor in the case intends to seek the maximum sentence.
Lupo's employee, Michael Guesman, confessed that Lupo instructed him to dump contaminated fracking brine, only after dark and when no one else was around, into a storm water drain near the business in December 2012. Guesman admitted following Lupo's instructions and dumping the drilling mud and brine from 20,000-gallon storage tanks down the storm drain on 24 different occasions. Analysis showed the wastewater was contaminated with hazardous pollutants including benzene and toluene.
The case started after an illegal January 31, 2013, dump of wastewater containing oil-laden drilling mud and drill cuttings required a massive cleanup costing more than $1 million.
Guesman was sentenced to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service after cooperating with prosecutors.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, “Ben Lupo put his own business interests ahead of the health and safety of our citizens, natural resources and wildlife by repeatedly releasing or ordering the release of his company's brine waste into the Mahoning River. He will now be held accountable for this terrible crime.”
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources revoked operating permits for Hardrock Excavating in April 2013.
Image: Celeste Lindell via Flickr