COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The former owner of a Youngstown-based wastewater company pleaded guilty Monday to federal Clean Water Act violations in the dumping of thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater into a northeast Ohio storm sewer.
Ben Lupo, 63, changed his earlier not guilty plea during a hearing before Judge Donald Nugent in federal court in Cleveland. He faces up to three years in prison, a year of supervised release and fines of up to $50,000 per day, to a maximum of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for June 16.
Authorities had charged that Lupo, of Poland, Ohio, ordered an employee at Hardrock Excavating LLC to repeatedly dump drilling mud and brine intended for deep injection into a sewer that empties into the Mahoning River watershed, or he dumped the material himself, between November 2012 and January 2013.
The employee, 34-year-old Michael Guesman of Cortland, was sentenced last week to 300 hours of community service and three years of probation.
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said he was pleased Lupo had admitted his actions and that Dettelbach's office would continue "to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases in which people pollute Ohio's waterways."
Randall Ashe, special agent in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement program in Ohio, said the case sends a signal to the state's growing energy industry.