State and federal investigators are pursuing criminal charges and civil penalties against a Lowellville company accused of dumping toxic oilfield waste in a hole in the ground on their property that the officials believe could contaminate groundwater less than a quarter-mile away from the Mahoning River.
Soil Remediation, Inc. and its two subsidiaries are being investigated for possibly violating state open dumping or federal Clean Water laws for dumping oilfield waste they never had permits to treat directly on the ground and into a hole dug into the property, according to court records and officials.
The Northeast Ohio Environmental Crimes Task Force— consisting of the federal and state Environmental Protection Agencies, the state attorney general’s office, the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and others — executed a search warrant Monday at the company’s 360-acre property at 6065 Arrel-Smith Road, taking company records and 28 samples from various locations at the property, according to search warrant proceedings filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday.
The EPA, records show, was notified by an anonymous complaint about brine water and contaminated soil being buried in the ground on Nov. 30, 2011.
Ohio EPA spokesman Mike Settles confirmed the agencies are looking at criminal charges and civil penalties against Soil Remediation.
The EPA has cited the company, whose president is David Gennaro, dozens of times since 2005, according to EPA records obtained by WKBN.COM, and refused to comply with some of the agency’s most serious orders, according to records and interviews.
Investigators first cited Soil Remediation in 2005 for failing to have proper safeguards in place for storm waters that discharged industrial waste into the Mahoning River since 2003. The EPA found the discharge flows through a catch basin into the nearby river.
A message left at Soil Remediation was not returned. Records said Soil Remediation treats petroleum contaminated soils using extreme heat and reuses the soil. But the company, according to records, continually treated prohibited and hazardous materials without proper permits despite being cited by EPA inspectors.
Two connected businesses — Sharon Slag, a stone-crushing business, and Gennaro Pavers, Inc., a trucking and excavating company — are located on the same property and have the same owners and operators.
Investigators reported they found the storm water continued to be distributed in the Mahoning River in 2012. They also found during a July 9 inspection, the company was dumping solid waste, including plastic sheeting buried underground and a pile of scrap tires dumped on the property, also violations.
They also found a high concentration of metal in samples taken from the area, indicating the material was hazardous. Soil Remediation has no permit to store or dispose of hazardous waste, documents say.
Ohio EPA Special Investigator Bart W. Ray, in a search warrant affidavit, wrote he received information from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that drilling companies were taking loads of wastes, including drill cuttings, drilling liquids and brine, to Soil Remediation. Drill cuttings and drilling liquids are usually considered “solid wastes,” which the company was cited for taking without a permit.
An unnamed trucking company employee interviewed by investigators two weeks ago said the company hauled “many” loads of drill cuttings, waste drilling mud, fluids and brine to Soil Remediation. The employee said they watched the waste contaminated with oil-based drilling mud dumped on the ground and into an excavated hole in the ground.
“The Division of Surface Water staff stated that the contaminated liquids from the drilling wastes dumped on or in the ground could pollute groundwater and run-off from the liquids would be a pollutant entering waters of the state,” the affidavit says.
The EPA, records show, came to a final agreement Soil Remediation in 2008 that included the company paying $23,000 in fines and agreed to submit reports on how they remedied problems. The EPA found evidence of illegal dumping during a Dec. 8, 2011 inspection, records show. The EPA report said they found soil contaminated with oil and gasoline.
Inspectors noted “it appears that these contaminated soils were brought on site and dumped without remediation.”
After the anonymous complaint in 2011 about possible dumping at the company, EPA inspectors three months later found contaminated soil was improperly stored and the company failed to promptly cleanup spills.