The owner of Hardrock Excavating LLC in Youngstown, Ohio, has been indicted in federal court with one count of violating the Clean Water Act.
Ben Lupo, 62, of nearby Poland, Ohio, is accused of directing an employee to illegally discharge brine and oil-based drilling mud into a stormwater drain that flowed into an unnamed tributary of the Mahoning River and ultimately into the Mahoning River near Youngstown, according to Steven M. Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
The alleged conduct took place on Jan. 31, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.
“Those of us from Northeast Ohio know the legacy of dumping industrial waste into our waterways,” Dettelbach said. “Whether our water flows south to the Ohio River or north to the Great Lakes, protecting and preserving clean and safe water remains a major priority of the my office and the Department of Justice.”
Hardrock Excavating provides services to the oil and gas industry in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including the storage of brine and oil-based drilling mud. There are approximately 58 mobile storage tanks at the company’s Youngstown facility and each holds approximately 20,000 gallons.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) received a call from an anonymous person who stated that on the night of Jan. 31 someone would be illegally discharging wastewater from the Hardrock facility. When ODNR inspectors arrived at the scene, they found a hose connected to a storage tank, discharging wastewater into a stormwater drain at the facility. Inspectors took a sample of the wastewater, which was black in color.
Ohio EPA personnel arrived at the facility on Feb. 1 and found that the unnamed tributary had puddles of oil throughout its length, from where the stormwater drained to the Mahoning River, approximately one mile away. Oil and an oily sheen were also visible in the Mahoning River.
That day, an EPA representative spoke with Lupo about the discharge into the storm drain. Lupo admitted he directed a Hardrock employee to discharge the contents of the storage drain into the stormwater drain and further admitted that he directed discharge from a storage tank a total of six times, according to the court affidavit.
On Feb. 12, a Hardrock employee stated that the discharges began in November 2012 at the direction of Lupo and that the employee was aware of at least 20 discharges into the stormwater drain.