YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - As authorities conduct their own investigation into the alleged illegal dumping of waste into a storm sewer in Youngstown, we're learning more about how the suspected crime was discovered and what Ohio Department of Natural Resources inspectors witnessed.
We have confirmed through ODNR that the owner of Hardrock Excavating, Ben Lupo, has requested an "informal hearing" with ODNR's chief of the oil and gas division.
We've also learned that two anonymous text messages alerted ODNR investors in January to the alleged crime. It was on Thursday, January 31st when two workers were allegedly caught red-handed, dumping the waste.
Tough terrain has made it difficult, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio EPA continue overseeing the clean-up of the oilfield waste that has made its way into the Mahoning River after the alleged intentional dumping of brine, oil and oilfield waste on Thursday.
U.S. EPA officials say what was allegedly discharged into a storm sewer on D&L Energy's Salt Springs Road property last week spilled over into a small creek and then the Mahoning River in the Belle Vista neighborhood.
Jeff Lippert, who is based in Detroit, is the on-scene investigator for the U.S. EPA. He says there is an investigation into a possible violation of the Federal Clean Water Act.
"I can tell you that our criminal investigation division is conducting an investigation. Hopefully in the next few days the emergency portion of the cleanup will be completed and long-term investigation and cleanup will be underway," Lippert said.
The spill has been stabilized and has not come close to any drinking water source.
The U.S. EPA says D&L has hired the contractors and are paying for the cleanup of the oilfield waste.
In documents sent to Hardrock Excavating and company owner Ben Lupo permanently revoking the companies operating permits on Wednesday, investigators say they observed two individuals disposing of substances from a hose connected to a frac tank into a storm sewer.
The truck labeled Mohawk, and also reportedly owned by Ben Lupo, allegedly did not have the proper registration to transport brine in the state.
Meanwhile, State Representative Bob Hagan doesn't understand why the city and county aren't enforcing laws related to the dumping of waste into a storm drain.
He's also outraged that a local man, Ben Shapiro, who exercised his freedom of speech by protesting at D&L last November was arrested and spent a night in jail when the owner of Hardrock Excavating still hasn't been charged.
Hagan says, "My worry is that there are two systems of justice; one for people in business and the other for those who don't have enough money to defend themselves."
Local officials, including the county prosecutor, say they just want to respect the on-going state and federal criminal investigations and are awaiting the results of samples on the brine and oilfield waste that were sent to a lab for testing.