A Cortland man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he polluted Ohio waterways when he dumped oilfield brine and crude into a Youngstown storm sewer several times.
Michael Guesman, 34, of Cortland, entered the guilty plea to one count of violating the federal Clean Water Act before U.S. District Court Judge Donald Nugent in Cleveland.
He is expected to cooperate with authorities in testimony against his former boss and company owner Benedict W. Lupo, who is accused of directing Guesman to illegally dump the brine.
Lupo, 62, of Poland and his company, Hardrock Excavating in Youngstown, also are facing the same criminal charge. Those federal criminal cases still are pending.
The three were charged after investigators from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources agents acted on a tip and 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."
Cleanup costing hundreds of thousands of dollars went on for weeks following the incident. The state stripped all Lupo's Youngstown-based energy companies, including D&L Energy, of their permits to transport or dispose of oilfield waste, but D&L Energy is appealing the ruling.
Since then, Lupo has turned over his role as D&L Energy president to his wife, but he still holds majority ownership in the company. The company in April filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Guesman will be sentenced Nov. 15 following a presentence investigation. He could be sentenced to probation or prison time.
Violations of the federal Clean Water Act could carry a three-year prison sentence, 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.