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Environment


Youngstown man accused of dumping fracwater is set to change his plea today
Ben Lupo has insisted on his innocence until now
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
One of Lupo's employees has admitted he dumped the fracwater into a storm sewer that emptied into the Mahoning River, and he is cooperating with prosecutors.
Courtesy of TIM RUDELL
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In The Region:

The Youngstown businessman accused of dumping tens of thousands of gallons of polluted fracwater into storm sewers is expected to change his plea in federal court today. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the case that drew national attention.

Sixty-two-year-old Ben Lupo ran Hardrock Excavating and a half-dozen sister companies at an industrial park in Youngstown. His business included disposing of fracwater – the brine and chemical-laden water left over after it’s been used to burst open shale to release oil and gas. 

The federal charge against him says he ordered an employee to empty tankers of the stuff dozens of times into a storm sewer, which then flowed into the Mahoning River. 

Mike Tobin of the U.S. attorney’s office says he can’t say for sure what will happen in U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent’s court in Cleveland today.

 “The statutory maximum is up to three years in prison. If he were to plead guilty, sentencing would certainly be up to the judge but he could face three years in prison plus a variety of fines and restitution for the cost of cleaning up the Mahoning River. 

The employee who Lupo allegedly ordered to dump the wastewater is Michael Guesman, who pleaded guilty last week and was sentenced to probation and 300 hours of community service. He's also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. The dumping occurred in late 2012 and early 2013 before an anonymous caller tipped investigators.

Lupo’s company has also been charged criminally under the Clean Water Act. 

 

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