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Ohio EPA official says dumping of oil and brine occurred at least 6 times

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – There are major revelations related to the alleged intentional dumping of thousands of gallons of oil, brine and oilfield waste into a Youngstown storm sewer.

Kurt Kollar, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator handling the clean-up, sat down on Monday with Youngstown Mayor Chuck Sammarone and several other city officials, including the city prosecutor, to provide the latest information on the clean-up, and details that have not been made public until now. News reporters were also allowed to sit in.

Kollar, who is part of the Ohio EPA's Emergency Response Team, says that Ben Lupo, the owner of Hardrock Excavating and D&L Energy, stated on the record to investigators that this was not the first time the dumping occurred.

In fact, he says Lupo admitted to dumping two tankers full of frac fluid into a storm drain at least six times since September of 2012. Each truck holds about 21,000 gallons, so that's approximately one-quarter-a-million gallons of oil and oilfield waste that's made its way into a Youngstown storm drain, and a portion of the Mahoning River.

"What we're finding is the sediments in areas of the creek are heavily inundated with layers of oil supporting the fact that this isn't a onetime offense," Kollar said.

Mayor Sammarone questions if the state has been proactive in the inspection process because he believes if that the inspections were being done, the crime could have been prevented or detected even sooner.

"When we have issues like this with bars and so forth, people breaking laws continuously, we go after them and shut them down. Well in this case we don't have the power to shut this business down. But we're going to push the governor and whoever is responsible at the state level to make sure these kind of problems don't occur again," Sammarone said.

The mayor also questions how someone with so many violations could be granted permits.

Kollar says it's his job is to oversee the clean-up, and not the dual criminal investigations at the state and federal level. But he plans to pass the mayor's concerns along to the proper authorities.

He says Lupo claims that it was clean water that he was dumping into the storm sewers from frac trucks.

"As he (Lupo) put it, ‘I'm doing the right thing. I did it at night because I was doing the right thing and didn't want someone to think I was doing the wrong thing, and create an uproar.'"

But it appears an uproar is exactly what he's created. Mayor Sammarone is urging state and federal authorities to take action, saying this won't be tolerated in Youngstown.

"We're going to have our prosecutor check with the federal authorities to see what they're going to do, and the state authorities as well. Hopefully they'll do something about it with some criminal charges, because if they don't, we will," Sammarone said.

No one from Hardrock Excavating or D&L Energy Corp could be reached for a response.

Even though officials are waiting on lab results on the samples of oilfield waste, Kollar said, "The equipment I carry in my truck all the time can't always tell you what it is, but it tells you what it is not."

Kollar says he was the first on the scene from the Ohio EPA, and says he immediately checked for hazardous properties, including radioactive materials, to make sure there was no threat to public health. Nothing was found or he says the public would have been immediately notified.

When it comes to cost of the clean-up, Kollar says he has no idea what the dollar amount would be at this point, but the owner of D&L hired the contractors, and state and federal authorities are overseeing the project.

The state and federal criminal investigations into the discharge of oilfield waste is on-going.

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