Plea expected today in brine-dumping case

YOUNGSTOWN – A Cortland man accused of dumping oilfield brine and crude into a storm sewer, leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs, could plead guilty in federal court this morning.

Michael Guesman, 34, of Cortland, is facing one count of violating the federal Clean Water Act. A court docket indicates a hearing is set for this morning in which Guesman will change his plea. He earlier had pleaded innocent.

Guesman had worked for Hardrock Excavating in Youngstown when he was ordered by his then-boss, company owner Benedict W. Lupo, 62, of Poland, to empty some of the waste liquids stored on the property into the nearby stormwater drain using a hose. He was told to ”conduct this activity only after no one else was at the facility and after dark,” according to the court document.

The indictment alleges that over the next several months, on numerous occasions at the direction of Lupo, Guesman emptied some of the waste.

Acting on an anonymous tip, Ohio Department of Natural Resources agents arrived Jan. 31 at the Salt Springs Road facility to witness two people using a hose to dispose of liquid from a frac tank into the storm sewer before they drove away in a truck labeled “Mohawk.”

A federal grand jury in February handed up one-count indictments against both Guesman and Lupo and against the company, Hardrock Excavating. No one else has been charged.

According to the federal court docket, Guesman is set for a “change of plea” hearing at 9:30 a.m. today at U.S. District Court in Youngstown. He had pleaded innocent during his March 15 arraignment.

Guesman in July signed court documents consenting to a pre-sentence investigation, a process that often precedes guilty pleas.

Both Lupo and Guesman could face up to three years in prison if convicted of violations of the federal Clean Water Act, along with a year of supervised release and a fine of $50,000 per day of violation up to $250,000. The company could face up to five years of probation and the same potential fine.