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Ohio Utica Shale

Tip leads state inspectors to witness illegal dumping in Youngstown

By Bob Downing Published: February 5, 2013

A anonymous tip to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources led state inspectors to witness illegal dumping of drilling wastes last week into a storm sewer in Youngstown.

That fact was contained in two pages of reports released on Tuesday by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for last week’s alleged illegal dumping at the D&L Energy Group off Salt Springs Road.

Ben Lupo, identified as owner of Hard Rock Excavating, contacted the state inspectors after the dumping and reportedly took responsibility for the illegal dumping, the EPA reports say.

The report says the drilling wastes were "intentionally discharged to the storm sewer by a company employee under the direction of Ben Lupo."

Efforts to reach Lupo were unsuccessful late Tuesday.

He signed a notice of violation from the EPA acknowledging two environmental citations.

The Ohio EPA has issued two citations: the unauthorized discharge to a stream and failure to report the dumping.

The agency is also beginning a criminal investigation.

In excess of 20,000 gallons of drilling wastes were involved, the state said.

The state inspectors witnessed drilling muds, brine and oil from a tanker truck going into a storm sewer that drained to a tributary and into the Mahoning River, the state report says.

The dumping was discovered about 7:30 p.m. last Thursday, according to a report filed at 4:02 p.m. Friday with the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center.

That report indicates that the drilling wastes were "intentionally dumped" into the Youngstown storm sewer.

The Ohio EPA was spearheading the cleanup of the sewers, the tributary and the stream.

The EPA report also outlines seven corrective steps to alleviate the pollution problem from the drilling wastes.

In a related development, state Rep. Robert F. Hagan, D-Youngstown, knocked two state agencies for their handling of the illegal dumping in Youngstown.

He asked the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources why local officials had been "left in the dark regarding this alarming incident."

He said he is "severely disappointed" in the response from the two state agencies.

He called for all relevant information on the dumping be made available to the public immediately.

Hagan, in a letter he released on Tuesday, said he is "appalled by not only the recklessness of the illegal dumping but also the secrecy and lack of communications and transparency surrounding the incident."

He asked EPA Director Scott Nally why it took his agency four days to issue what he called "a cursory statement that provides little detail or insight into the dumping fiasco."

Hagan also questioned why more than 20,000 gallons of drilling wastes would be present at a closed-down injection well.

Why that waste was at the site is "a mystery that is both puzzling and extremely alarming," Hagan said.

He noted that the D&L Energy Group that owns the injection well off Salt Springs Road has been cited for 120 environmental and regulatory violations at 32 injection wells in Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

The well was closed in late 2011 after it had triggered more than a dozen small earthquakes in the Youngstown area.

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.