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Federal grand jury indicts Youngstown driller and his company
Grand jury says the dumping of fracking waste happened "numerous" times over three months; Rep. Hagan presses on government oversight

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M.L. Schultze
The clean-up efforts included digging manholes into a storm sewer so it could be scrubbed.
Courtesy of M.L. Schultze
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In The Region:

A Youngstown businessman, his company and an employee have now been indicted for allegedly flushing thousands of gallons of drilling waste down a storm sewer --  over-and-over -- for nearly three months. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the latest developments in the case of Benedict Lupo.

SCHULTZE: Lupo, Hardrock and employee indicted

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The federal indictment accuses the 62-year-old Lupo, Hardrock Excavating and an employee, Michael Guesman, of illegally dumping brine and oil-drilling mud into the storm drain. And Mike Tobin, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, says the grand jury concluded it happened more than once. 

“According to the indictment, the dumping started in November and continued through Jan. 31. And our understanding is the dumping always took place after dark and after almost all the other employees had left the facility.” 

But on Jan. 31, someone phoned the Ohio Department of Natural Resources with a tip, and investigators headed to Youngstown, where they say they found Guesman dumping the waste into the storm grate. It flowed into a tributary and then into the Mahoning River, triggering a massive cleanup that’s lasted nearly a month. The indictment says the waste included toxic chemicals like benzene.

If convicted, Lupo faces as much as three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


Rep. Bob Hagan says the new indictment doesn't answer old questions
A Youngstown businessman, one of his companies and one of his employees are now each facing federal felony charges, accusing them of dumping tens of thousands of gallons of drilling waste into the city’s waterways. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze says the charges have mollified some critics of how the state has dealt with the fracking boom, but not all.

Rep. Hagan reacts
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The feds leveled the first of the charges against 62-year-old Ben Lupo two weeks ago, when they accused him of violating the Clean Water Act by ordering an unnamed employee to flush fracking waste water into a storm sewer – and eventually into the Mahoning River.

With the new indictment, they’ve added two more defendants – including one of Lupo’s companies, Hardrock Excavating, and a few more details.

The indictment fills in the name of the employee, Michael Guesman. It says the dumping began on Nov. 1, happened repeatedly – always at night or when other employees wouldn’t be around -- and that the heavily salted water and other waste included toxic chemicals like toluene and benzene.

Youngstown-area state Rep. Bob Hagan says what it doesn’t include is an examination of why state government gave Lupo permits to dispose of fracking waste when he had a history of problems.

“When an individual that is hauling, drilling and endangering the lives of so many people with toxic chemicals has 120 violations, and we cannot find any type of penalties that he has had to pay certainly speaks about how government has not done their job. What you’re really showing here is an individual who’s been indicted, but a government that has not done their duty, and that’s really disheartening to me.”

The indictment does not add any additional charges against Lupo based on the number of times the dumping occurred. The charges carry penalties of as much as three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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