Ohio: Warren man pleads guilty for role in dumping frac waste into waterway, violating Clean Water Act

Warren man pleads guilty for role in dumping fracking waste into waterway by Eric Heisig, cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Warren man pleaded guilty Friday to violating the Clean Water Act by directing an employee at his former job to dump fracking waste into a stormwater system with a link to the Mahoning River.

David Jenkins, a former employee of Hardrock Excavating LLC in Youngstown, is the fifth defendant to be charged as part of a case over the illegal dumping of tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste in December 2012 and January 2013. Prosecutors said the company stored, treated and disposed waste liquids generated by oil and gas drilling.

Jenkins admitted in court Friday that he was aware of a plan hatched by Hardrock’s owner Benedict Lupo to dump waste housed in tanks without a permit. Prosecutors said Lupo ordered another employee, Michael Guesman, to dump the waste at night, though Guesman consulted with Jenkins on occasions that Lupo was not available.

Jenkins, 34, faces up to three years in prison and at least a $5,000 fine after pleading guilty. He entered a plea agreement with prosecutors that will recommend a far lower sentence. It’s possible he may not serve any time at all, as a conviction for a Clean Water Act violation does not mandate a prison term.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko will sentence Jenkins on Oct. 4. He is free on bond.

The wastewater was a byproduct of Hardrock’s hydraulic fracturing operations — commonly known as “fracking” — consisting of saltwater brine and a slurry of toxic oil-based drilling mud, containing benzene, toluene and other hazardous pollutants.

The creek that the stormwater system drained into before going into the Mahoning River was rendered “essentially dead” because of the pollutants, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson wrote in a previous court filing.

Lupo, 65, was sentenced in August 2014 to 28 months in federal prison. He is scheduled for release in October.

Guesman and another employee, Mark Goff, were given probation for their roles. [Emphasis added]

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