Brine cleanup expected for another week

WARREN – Cleanup of oilfield waste that was dumped into a storm sewer in Youngstown and eventually seeped into the a tributary of the Mahoning River and the river, too, is expected to continue at least another week, an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency official said Tuesday.

Spokesman Chris Abbruzzese said remediation workers ”realistically will be out there another seven days,” to clean up the environmental mess created by the discharge of thousands of gallons drilling waste.

That’s the outlook representatives from the Ohio and U.S. environmental protection agencies, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the contractor working the cleanup settled on from a Tuesday morning meeting. They also discussed the maintenance phase, Abbruzzese said.

Crews are still cleaning the last leg of the storm sewer, about 800 feet, and simultaneously working to remove the waste from the tributary, where most of the waste is located.

When that’s done, the project will move into the maintenance phase, during which collection and containment areas in strategic locations in the tributary will be maintained and inspected ”to make sure that everything that should be getting cleaned up is getting cleaned up,” Abbruzzese said.

Meanwhile, the joint Ohio and U.S. EPA criminal investigation is continuing into the dumping and the man accused of orchestrating it, Ben Lupo, whose companies occupy the Salt Springs Road location from where the discharge was made.

So far, Lupo, owner of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating LLC, has been charged with illegally discharging into a U.S. waterway, a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

Documents released Thursday, the day Lupo, 62, of Poland, was arraigned in federal court in Youngstown, show that he had directed his employees more than 20 times since November to drain oilfield waste into a storm sewer at the company’s property, 2761 Salt Springs Road.

Until then, state officials had said Lupo admitted to authorizing six discharges.

On the horizon for Lupo could be more criminal charges plus a likely civil suit filed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office.

On another front, a decision on whether Hardrock’s brine hauling permit, which has been revoked, will stay revoked hasn’t been made, according to a spokeswoman with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Bethany McCorkle, with ODNR, said attorneys for Lupo have asked to submit written arguments in the matter.

The hauling permit was revoked Feb. 6 after the state found Hardrock permitted another company, which has the same address as Hardrock, to transport brine under Hardrock’s registration number.

The same day, ODNR also ordered D&L Energy to stop all injection well operations in Ohio, including revoking six injection well permits and denying three pending injection well permits. In addition, D&L was ordered to stop all temporary storage operations at the Salt Springs Road location.

An appeal has not been made by D&L.