Youngstown man admits dumping toxic fracking waste into Mahoning River

Youngstown man admits dumping toxic fracking waste into Mahoning River by James F. McCarty, August 29, 2013, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio — An employee of a Youngstown company that stored, treated and disposed of oil and gas drilling liquids admitted this morning to dumping tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste on at least 24 occasions into a tributary of the Mahoning River. Michael Guesman appeared in U.S. District Court where he pleaded guilty to a charge of unpermitted discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act. He faces a sentence of about a year in federal prison, although his time could be reduced by the amount of assistance he provides to prosecutors, and his acceptance of responsibility for his crime. Guesman 34, of Cortland, said he acted on the orders of his boss at Hardrock Excavating, owner Benedict Lupo, when ran a hose from the 20,000-gallon storage tanks to a nearby storm water drain and opened the release valve. A gusher of waste liquid left over from hydraulic fracturing operations — commonly known as “fracking” — poured into the drain, sending saltwater brine and a slurry of toxic oil-based drilling mud, containing benzene, toluene and other hazardous pollutants, flowing into the Mahoning, prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson said Guesman is cooperating with investigators, and if necessary will testify for the government at the trial of Lupo, which has not yet been scheduled. Guesman has told investigators that, between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, Lupo instructed him to dump the fracking waste into the storm sewer at least 24 times, always after dark and after all of the other employees had left the facility, Beeson said. The black fracking waste left a smelly, oily sheen on the Mahoning, which was located less than a mile away from the Hardrock facility and its 58 storage tanks, investigators said. U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent scheduled sentencing for Nov. 15.

Lupo, 62, of Poland, Ohio, has pleaded not guilty to charges of violating the federal Clean Water Act. … Guesman told the agents that Lupo ordered him to lie if questioned about the dumping, and to tell law enforcement officers he had emptied the waste tanks only six times, when in fact he had done it at least four times that number, documents state. [Emphasis added]

Real-Time Analysis For Oil Waste Water Contamination by Institution of Mechanical Engineers, August 28, 2013
“Produced water” extracted alongside fossil fuels is a sizeable by-product of the oil and gas industry – modern oil wells produce as much as 10 barrels of water for each barrel of oil – and treating and disposing of this water is a major expense for many operators, with production sometimes limited by how much water can be handled. This water is often re-injected into the wells, but any contaminants can do irreversible damage to the production process. Currently, produced water quality is usually assessed by samples being sent for time-consuming laboratory analysis meaning it may be too late by the time any issues are identified.

But new particle analysis technology created by product development firm Cambridge Consultants can measure droplets of oil or particles of sand and wax in produced water in real-time at offshore sites, giving an immediate indication of whether the water can be safely reinjected into a well or disposed of overboard. “There is a general need to be able to check for the levels of sand, oil and additives in produced water that is to be reinjected into the well,” said Dr Frances Metcalfe, associate director, oil and gas, at Cambridge Consultants. “If a well exceeds certain limits, for example due to a failure in processing equipment, particulates can block pores in the rock, causing production to stop and even render the well beyond economic use. “There is therefore a real need to be able to analyse very tiny droplets and particles in a pipeline in real-time in order to speed up reaction time to correct potential issues.” … In the future, such a system could also include a local alarm that would flag up a potential problem and send a control signal to fix an issue or turn off a valve. Potential applications include wet gas, produced water and polymer flooding, MEG injection or scale monitoring. Click for more information

Average fine for breaching environment law just €3.5k in Republic of Ireland by Claire O’Sullivan, August 24, 2013, Irish Examiner Reporter
The average fine meted out by the courts for breaches of environmental law such as polluting rivers, ignoring the terms of waste licences, and illegally dumping waste, is a mere €10,000. However, when a small number of standout five– and six–figure fines are discounted, the average fine is closer to €3,500.

This is in strong contrast with the UK, where a water company was fined €230,000 yesterday for discharging raw sewage into the sea last year. An analysis by the Irish Examiner of all prosecutions by the Environmental Protection Agency over the past five years reveals a low number of prosecutions and equally low fines being handed out by the judges to often large companies, many of whom are repeat offenders.

John Sweeney from NUI Maynooth’s department of geography described the fines as derisory. “Very often, the fines bear no relation to the amount of damage done to the environment by these serious breaches,” said Prof Sweeney. … An Taisce’s heritage officer, Ian Lumley, said the issue has been raised repeatedly with the Government. He said the current level of fines “do not act as a deterrent to potential offenders”. “Very often, companies can make a calculated risk as they can save a lot of money even if they are prosecuted by not obeying the laws,” he said. Just eight prosecutions have taken place this year with the average fine being €6,000. In 2012, the average fine was €1,650. An EPA spokeswoman defended its record, saying it has an average prosecution success rate over 95%. “We are not aware of a year in which we lost more than one case. Most years we win all of our cases,” she said. “This figure does not reflect cases withdrawn, plea agreements, or the Probation Act. “The EPA also prosecutes individual company directors where we detect serious and repeated environmental crime.” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2006 10 Rosebud water contamination article quote The EUB, then ERCB, now AER, is facilitator for the oil and gas industry, not taken seriously anymore

Source of above quote: 2006 Trouble in our Fields. Is Our Water Safe? After the EUB was caught breaking the law and spying on innocent Albertans in 2007, the Alberta government changed the “facilitator’s” name to the ERCB. And changed names again in 2013 to the AER with a new law that prevents Albertans from doing what I am doing with this lawsuit. Changing names does not hide the obvious.

Fracking boom could lead to housing bust; August 2013 Signs at Rosebud: Encana and Remax

2013: Science be damned, EnCana wants to inject waste into drinking water aquifer

November 2012 – EnCana’s drilling waste dumped at Rosebud

Bob Curran, Public Affairs Section Leader, ERCB on GlobalTV, January 17, 2013:
“We evolve the regulations on an ongoing basis to ensure that they’re protective of groundwater and public safety and that waste is disposed of properly as well.”

Darin Barter, ERCB spokesman, March 2007“If they are not following our regulations, we should be involved in it.” The report also found that a variety of products — including hazardous materials and lubricants — had been discarded or abandoned “with no apparent concern for the environment.” “A lack of responsibility and supervision are evident at other sites, wherein examples of poor industry practices and lackadaisical housekeeping abound”

CAPP’s 2006 Best Management [Voluntary] Practices for NGC/CBM:  “Drilling fluids are transported, stored and handled in tanks. Typically, drilling fluid waste will be transported off-site for re-use and treatment/disposal…. Some additives may be caustic, toxic, or acidic.” [Emphasis added]

2007: Suffield Files Reveal Disturbing Story of Environmental Degradation, Non-compliance by Energy Companies and Industry Giant EnCana 

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