News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Meaden & Moore

Metro RTA

Hennes Paynter Communications


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment


Youngstown driller faces charges as Mahoning River cleanup continues
Ben Lupo charged with Violating the Clean Water Act
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
A backhoe digs up land near a waterway where fracking waste was dumped.
Courtesy of M.L. Schultze
Download (WKSU Only)

The owner of an oil and natural gas drilling company in Youngstown, Ohio, has been charged with a violating the federal Clean Water Act. He’s accused of dumping tens of thousands of gallons of drilling waste water into a storm sewer that eventually runs into a local river.

WKSU's M.L. Schultze has more on a case that even fellow drillers are quick to call outrageous.

Schultze on the Youngstown fracking dump

Other options:
MP3 Download (4:01)


(Click image for larger view.)

Steel mills used to stand here, along Salt Springs Road in Northwest Youngstown. They came down decades ago, replaced by massive, modern warehouses.

And for the last two weeks, guys in blue and yellow hazmat suits, with tanker trucks and backhoes, have fanned out across the lawns, parking lots and ditches, following the path of a storm sewer from one of those warehouses, down a ravine, into a creek and eventually into the Mahoning River.  Booms and vacuum trucks are skimming off an oily sheen on the water, while other crews dig up sediment.

All of this is designed to capture the brine, drilling mud and toxic chemicals that state regulators say were intentionally dumped down the storm sewer on Jan. 31st.

Youngstown Mayor Chuck Sammarone says, ‘Where was the oversight?’

“Here’s what I don’t understand. You knew the track record of this guy, so they should have been checking not even daily, but by the second, as to what’s going on.”

“This guy” is 62-year-old Ben Lupo, who runs D&L Energy and a score of other companies that haul and dispose of the left-overs from hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas.

He’s been in the business for nearly 30 years. And together, his companies have racked up more than 100 environmental violations. He also ran a deep injection well that Ohio officials say triggered earthquakes here two years ago.

Still, until yesterday, none of the cases brought criminal charges.

Lauren Schroeder is a retired biology professor whose been studying the Mahoning River pretty much since he came to Youngstown nearly a half century ago.

He says dumping like this is a throwback to the bad old days.

“It’s just astounding that this would be going on today, just atrocious.”

Especially as the Mahoning has been recovering. People might not swim in it yet, but they fish and kayak.

And it’s far from what he calls the “Dante’s Inferno” days, when the river served as an open sewer for steel mills

“The temperature often exceeded 100 degrees, in fact it usually exceeded 100 degrees. There were 70,000 pounds of oil that floated down the river each day -- high levels of cyanide…”  

In comparison, drilling wastewater may seem mild. But Schroeder says the river remains fragile.

And he says it’s important to make an example of this illegal dumping now because there will be lots more fracking waste to dispose of.

“That’s a huge cost to the companies and there’s a big incentive to get rid it as cheaply as you can.”

Ben Lupo has pleaded not guilty to the charge. If convicted, he faces up to  three years in prison.  His company declined repeated interview requests. 

When it first acted on an anonymous tip about the dumping two weeks ago, the EPA says Lupo claimed he thought it was legal. Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally find that hard to believe.

“There is absolutely no way he could have even thought for a second that that would have been an appropriate means of disposal.”

What’s also noticeable to many here is that other drillers aren’t exactly rushing to Lupo’s defense.

“I have no desire to talk to Mr. Lupo.”

That’s Tom Stewart of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, which is applauding the criminal charges and revocation of Lupo’s operating permits.

Dave Kaminski directs energy policy for the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and notes drillers have billions invested in Ohio, and haven’t yet collected much of a return.

“It would seem to me you would have a great incentive to ensure this is done right, because public policy and opinion could flip on you in a week if you really messed it up.”

For now, federal and state investigators are trying to figure out just how big a mess this was. They say Ben Lupo has acknowledged dumping fracking waste water into storm sewers as many as six times since September.

Listener Comments:

THANK YOU! This guy needs to be locked up for more than 3 years. Hes done this 6 times, at least?!? Come on. He's been doing if for years.


Posted by: Zach (Athens) on February 19, 2013 10:02AM
Thank you for analyzing and reporting this subject.

Where could I find information on what materials are found in fracking fluid? Thanks for your help.


Posted by: Charles Smart (Troy, MI) on February 17, 2013 4:02AM
Congratulations to M.L. Schultze and WKSU Radio on having this well-produced story carried nationally by NPR. Count me among the many who are outraged by Ben Lupo's careless and irresponsible actions. However, to state that in comparison to the steel mill waste once dumped into the Mahoning River, "drilling wastewater may seem mild" is inaccurate. The water used in hydraulic fracturing is laced with dozens of chemicals, a number of which are known toxins and carcinogens. By dumping this chemical cocktail into the Mahoning, Mr. Lupo's business has endangered the drinking water not just of northeastern Ohio, but that of riverfront communities in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and beyond. Three years' imprisonment would be too little.


Posted by: Mike Stokes (Pittsburgh, PA) on February 16, 2013 8:02AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Local Ebola concerns cause officials to pay more attention to West Africa
I have a better idea, let's secure our borders and spend those billions of dollars on our own first.

HUD and Cuyahoga Land Bank extend a housing deal for another year
Need to sale lot, and would like to know how to contact someone to see if they may be interested in the property that sat between two lots. If you can give me...

Akron Beacon Journal details abuse claims against televangelist Angley
In the early 90's I went forth for pray. And the man was anointed by the hand of God. Just a fact I will never forget

Lawmaker questions why a million voters didn't get absentee applications
He's a damn lie! I vote n all elections. I missed 1. Haven't gotten my absentee ballot and their making it hard to get one.

Thirsty Dog Brewery warns it might have to leave Akron
Why is it the city's responsibility to find this guy a location? There are a hundred realestate companies that could help him.

Kent State sends home three after contact with second Ebola-stricken nurse
Why weren't all health workers who were around Duncan quaranteened for 21 days and tested for Ebola? That's a no-brainer. Why was Vinson allowed to travel right...

New book says Willoughby Coal is haunted...and that's good for business
Would love to see a series of books that would just thrill me. I cannot wait to visit some of the locations. And revisit some of the locations I have already vi...

Cleveland Indians to continue with 'dynamic pricing'
pricing is too high for a family as well as people like me who are on a fixed income. Bleacher seats are cheaper but concessions are rediculous.

Kasich talks about faith, drugs and education -- but never FitzGerald
The idea that you can learn more by talking to a 90 year old person than from a history book is just another example of how the GOP hates education and knowledg...

Third-grade charter school students fail state testing
A partisan anti-charter group came out with analysis that ODE says is based on incorrect data. So why is this a story? It doesn't seem to rise to WKSU's typic...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University