Two men connected with the Youngstown company accused of dumping drilling waste water into a storm drain have pleaded not guilty to charges of violating the federal Clean Water Act. Ideastream’s Michelle Kanu reports.
Ben Lupo, the owner of Hardrock Excavating, entered the plea this morning in a federal court in Youngstown.
One of his employees, Michael Guesman, also pled not guilty in his arraignment shortly afterward.
Both men were indicted last month for dumping thousands of gallons of drilling waste water into a storm drain on Hardrock’s property. The salty mix of water, crude oil, and chemicals eventually seeped into the Mahoning River.
Court documents indicate Guesman told federal agents that Lupo ordered him to dump the slurry, and to lie about how many times he was told to do so.
Acting on an anonymous tip, officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources witnessed the dumping in action on January 31st.
Despite that evidence, law experts say that doesn’t mean the prosecution has a slam dunk case.
Jonathan Entin is a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. He says the defendants have the legal right to force the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Entin: “It’s easy to assume that the government has really strong evidence, and it might. But, just because we might assume that doesn’t mean that’s how things are going to play out.”
The judge has not yet set a trial date. Lupo and Guesman remain free on bond. Both face three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.