Michael Guesman, an employee of Hardrock Excavating LLC, admitted Thursday that he dumped oilfield waste into a storm drain that empties into the Mahoning River near Youngstown, OH, a violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) that prompted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to permanently revoke the operating permits for Hardrock and a second company also alleged to have violated the CWA.

Guesman signed a written plea agreement and is scheduled to be sentenced in United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on Nov. 15, according to minutes of the proceedings. He could be sentenced to as much as a year in prison.

In February, ODNR revoked the operating permits for Hardrock and D&L Energy Inc. after employees were seen dumping oilfield waste into a storm drain in Youngstown (see Shale Daily, Feb. 11). The agency ordered D&L to cease all injection well operations in the state and its temporary storage operations at a facility in Youngstown, revoked D&L’s six active injection well permits, denied D&L’s applications for three new injection well permits and revoked Hardrock’s brine haulers permit.

At the same time, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation to D&L CEO Ben Lupo that said oil and “drilling operation water, brine and brine residue material was intentionally discharged to [a] storm sewer by [a] company employee under direction of Ben Lupo, owner.” Lupo, who is also a minority owner of Hardrock, subsequently stepped down as CEO of D&L.

An attorney representing D&L called ODNR’s decision to shut down the company’s injection wells “a gross violation of due process,” but the agency was upheld by the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission (see Shale Daily, June 28; March 26).

Guesman, Lupo and Hardrock were named in an indictment issued in February by a grand jury that alleged they had violated the CWA by discharging pollutants without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (see Shale Daily, Feb. 19). Court documents in the case United States of America v. Lupo et al (No. 4:13CR113) show Lupo has entered “not guilty” pleas to the charge against him.