UPDATED: Ohio EPA submits waste samples in Hardrock Excavating - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

UPDATED: Ohio EPA submits waste samples in Hardrock Excavating investigation for testing

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The Environmental Protection Agency submitted samples from the waste that was being dumped into a storm sewer at 2761 Salt Springs Rd. Thursday for testing to a lab. The goal to determine exactly what was contained in the waste.

The property belongs to D&L Energy, an oil and gas exploration company, but documents from the Ohio EPA identify Hardrock Excavating, a West Virginia based company using the property, as the company at fault. 

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources received an anonymous tip about the dumping, and ODNR inspectors responded at about 7:30 pm on January 31st when they actually witnessed dumping in progress.

The deputy director of communications with the Ohio EPA, Chris Abbruzzese, tells 21 News that part of the criminal investigation is determining exactly how much oilfield waste was illegally dumped at the site and if the dumping occurred once or multiple times.

Abbruzzese says they have thrown all of their resources at this and are under the gun from a weather perspective because the thawing ground could exacerbate the situation.

The criminal investigation is on-going, and 21 News has put in calls to Ben Lupo, the owner of Hardrock Excavating. A Notice of Violation from the EPA states that brine was intentionally discharged into the storm sewer under the direction of Lupo.

Neither Lupo nor a representative for the company have issued any further statements at the time this story was posted.

On Monday, D&L Energy released a statement denying any responsibility for the dumping saying another company was operating on D&L's property.

In the statement, a representative confirms the incident and the investigation but makes it clear that D&L Energy was not involved in the incident.

They say other companies were operating on the D&L owned property and it is their understanding that those companies are working with state authorities to determine exactly what happened and why. D&L declined to identify those other companies.

State Rep. Bob Hagan says it's now estimated that up to 40,000 gallons of oil and oilfield waste has been dumped in to a storm drain at 2761 Salt Springs Road, property owned by D&L Energy.

"The worry that I have right now is that my constituents that have been exposed to the chemicals around here could be in danger," Hagan says. "I want to know exactly every chemical, I want to know exactly how this happened, and I want a full investigation."

Hagan made his way on to the D&L property on Tuesday to demand answers and find out exactly what is in the fluid that was dumped into a storm drain.

The Ohio EPA and ODNR have been on Salt Springs Road since Friday, directing the clean-up of the discharged waste that has not only made its way into a storm drain but also a tributary and the Mahoning River.

The two state agencies, despite being here since Friday, have not publicly identified any chemical that poses a danger to public health.

But the Ohio EPA is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the Thursday dumping incident.

This is the same company that operated the injection well on Ohio Works Drive that was shut down following a series of earthquakes last year.

Hagan shot cell phone camera video of the storm drain where the incident happened and played the video for news reporters. He was also able to obtain more information after talking to state officials who we spotted on the scene.

"They were told that it was just cleansing water. The fact remains that once they noticed it, they found oil and a substance that they were not aware of," Hagan said.

"I am very upset about this," Hagan says. "It is a flagrant violation. It's thumbing your nose at the environment and the people in this area, not to mention the people that have been fighting to make sure that it's done safely."

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan released a statement in the same vein as Hagan's comments saying he is also furious because of the dumping and reassured by the investigation.

Youngstown's Department of Public Works was also on the scene. Chuck Shasho, the deputy director of Public Works for the city, says the EPA will make sure that the city's storm drain system is free of debris and any possible discharges.

As the Ohio EPA and ODNR continue to investigate this as a criminal matter, they want to ensure the public that they will not tolerate flagrant violations of Ohio's environmental laws.

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