Third person charged for discharging waste related to oil and gas drilling into the mahoning river
A third person has been criminally charged for discharging brine and wastewater related to oil and gas well drilling into the Mahoning River, law enforcement officials announced.
Mark A. Goff, 46, of Newton Falls, Ohio, was charged with one count of making an unpermitted discharge in violation of the Clean Water Act.
The conduct took place between October 1, 2012 and November 12, 2012, according to the information.
The filing of the criminal information was announced by Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, James Zehringer, Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Craig W. Butler, Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
According to the information and related court documents:
Hardrock Excavating LLC is owned by Lupo and located at 2761 Salt Springs Road, in Youngstown, Ohio. The company provides services to the oil and gas industry in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including the storage of brine and oil-based drilling mud. There were approximately 58 mobile storage tanks at the facility and each holds approximately 20,000 gallons.
Lupo, who owns Hardrock, directed employee Goff to empty some of the waste liquid stored at the facility into a nearby wastewater drain on or about October 1, 2012, according to the information.
Lupo directed Goff to conduct this activity only after no one else was at the facility and only after dark, according to the information.
Goff, at the direction of Lupo, emptied some of the lighter phase of the waste liquid being stored at the facility into the nearby stormwater drain using a hose on numerous occasions over the next two months, according to the information.
The last time Goff emptied some of the lighter phase of the waste liquid being stored at the facility into the drain was on or about November 12, 2012. In total, Goff emptied tanks at the direction of Lupo on approximately nine different nights, according to the information.
“Those who make it their business to harvest from under Ohio its great natural resources, have a responsibility to the men, women and children who drink its water, live on its land and breathe its air. And they have a duty to follow the law,” Dettelbach said. “This defendant broke the law and must be held accountable.”
“Mark Goff is another individual who carried out orders to release contaminated brine into Ohio’s waterways. It is crucial to the safety of our communities that everyone involved in this heinous crime be held accountable for their actions,” DeWine said.
“This incident is one of a small percentage of egregious environmental violations we see at Ohio EPA that must be prosecuted criminally,” Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler said. “This general disregard for the law will not be tolerated in Ohio and we will work with our partners at the local, state and federal agencies to make sure the responsible parties are held accountable. We especially appreciate the Federal Department of Justice quickly assisting Ohio in this case and applying its more stringent laws regarding Clean Water Act violations. ”
“Knowingly discharging toxic waste byproducts from drilling operations that ultimately flow into rivers has serious consequences for natural resources and local communities,” said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “Actions like these threaten to turn America’s waterways into chemical dumping grounds. Today’s charge should help protect the Ohio River watershed by deterring other would-be violators.”
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson following an investigation by the Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, U.S. EPA, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Youngstown Department of Public Works and the Youngstown Fire Department.
The statutory maximum for violating the Clean Water Act for individuals is three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $50,000 per day of violation or $250,000, whichever is larger.
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offenses and the characteristics of the violations. In all cases, the sentences will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases they will be less than the maximum.
An information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.