ODNR: "Charges today should serve as a warning." - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

ODNR: "Charges today should serve as a warning."

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources wants to use Ben Lupo as an example for any other companies illegally dumping in the state or country.

"The charges today should serve as a warning for anyone who places their personal interests ahead of the public's safety," ODNR Director Jim Zehringer told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Federal charges filed yesterday and unsealed this morning charge Lupo, owner of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating, with illegally dumped drilling water at his property on Salt Springs Road.

The ODNR was tipped about the illegal dumping and a response by officials Jan. 31 caught employees of Hardrock Excavating in the process of dumping toxic brine into a sewer drain at the D&L property.

"While we can't stop illegal activity, we can respond to it swiftly," Zehringer said.

If found guilty of the charges against him, Lupo could face up to three years in jail and a $250,000 fine, U.S. Atty. for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M Dettelback said.

He noted that while shale exploration provides great opportunities in the state and country, monitoring the players also provides a challenge when companies don't follow the laws.

Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine thanked the ODNR and other agencies for their roles in the investigation.

"This investigation was a joint effort," he said.

He told reporters the federal government filed the charges because of harsher penalties at that level.

If the state charged Lupo, it would be a misdemeanor with a maximum one year in prison.

"I think it's time Ohio law caught up to where federal law is," DeWine said.

He is pushing for new laws that would allow felony charges in similar cases with a three-to-five year sentence. 

An investigation revealed Lupo directed employees to dump the brine waste water and drilling mud into the sewer drain and the Jan. 31 incident was not an isolated incident.

Up to 250,000 gallons of waste may have been dumped under Lupo's direction and clean-up crews are still working to clean the waste that made its way to the Mahoning River.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gaines expressed his hope that the government agencies cleaning the river and its tributaries can recoup incurred costs and also thanked last month's tipster.

"Whoever tipped off the Ohio Department of Natural Resources should be applauded," he said at the event.

Stay tuned to 21 News at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. for more on this story.

For more information and to read the criminal complaint and affidavit in their entirety, see associated links with this story.

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