The owner of a Youngstown, Ohio oil and gas drilling company pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to ordering an employee to dump tens of thousands of gallons of toxic fracking waste into the Mahoning River.
Benedict Lupo, 63, of Poland, Ohio, now faces up to three years in federal prison.
He also faces fines of up to $1 million and could be ordered to pay restitution of more than $3 million, the Cleveland Plain Dealer said.
U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent set Lupo’s sentencing for June 16.
Lupo pleaded guilty to an indictment that charged him with the unpermitted discharge of pollutants under the federal Clean Water Act.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson said he would seek the maximum penalty of three years in prison for Lupo.
“Defense attorney Roger Synenberg said Lupo is extremely ill, and he would ask the judge to take that into consideration when sentencing his client,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer said.
Lupo’s former employee, Michael Guesman, 34, of Cortland, Ohio, was sentence last week to three years probation after he pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act.
“Guesman, a worker at Hardrock Excavating, testified that Lupo ordered him to run a hose from the 20,000-gallon storage tanks to a nearby storm-water drain and dump the polluted waste water, which eventually reached the Mahoning River,” the Plain Dealer said.
The wastewater was a byproduct of Lupo’s hydraulic fracturing operations — saltwater brine and a slurry of toxic oil-based drilling mud, containing benzene, toluene and other pollutants.
Guesman admitted dumping the polluted water into the drain on at least 20 occasions between November 2012 and January 2013.