Professor bemoans latest illegal dumping into river

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Published Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2013, in The Vindicator (Link)

Lauren Schroeder visited the Mahoning River about a mile downstream from where crude oil and brine from an illegal dump would flow into the waterway. Schroeder, a retired YSU professor who has studied the river most of his life, said it is too late for a cleanup. (Mary Sweetwood/TheNewsOutlet.org)

 

By CAITLIN COOK
TheNewsOutlet.org

YOUNGSTOWN — Lauren Schroeder looks into the waters he has studied his whole life and said he thought the days of illegal dumping into the Mahoning River were over.

One day after news of the illegal dumping of 20,000 gallons of crude oil and brine into a storm drain that empties into the Mahoning, Schroeder went to the area to survey the damage.

“The intentional dumping is just a tragedy for the river quality and the future of the river,” he said.

A public-records request from both The Vindicator and state Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, prompted the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to release a Notice of Violation and a preliminary incident report late Tuesday.

“Brine residue material was intentionally discharged to storm sewer by company employee under direction of Ben Lupo, owner,” the violation, which was signed by Lupo, read in part. “Release impacted the Mahoning River and a tributary, company failed to report in accordance.”

The offending company was listed as Hardrock Excavating and is listed at the same 2761 Salt Springs Road address as Lupo’s better-known company, D&L Energy. Lupo has incorporated dozes of companies that use that address.

Tuesday, workers from Tom’s Sewer and Septic, a 24-hour emergency response company in McDonald, were seen cleaning up at a catch basin outside 2761 Salt Springs Road.

A worker who would not provide his name for publication, said, “As of right now, we have nothing coming up so far. We’re just making sure there’s nothing in the drains and nothing is getting into the river.”

Schroeder says it’s too late.

“You’d have to pump out the whole flow, and it’s too late,” he said. “It would dissipate so quickly, it’s virtually impossible to clean it up.”

Schroeder, a retired biology professor from Youngstown State University, has been monitoring the river water quality and was actually seeing improvement from the damage created by years of industrial waste and illegal dumping.

Schroeder doesn’t need investigators to tell him that the already-polluted river has suffered yet another setback.

While there are conflicting accounts of what exactly was discharged into the river, Schroeder said a brine would mesh together with current river water flowing downstream toward Pennsylvania, increasing the river’s overall salt levels.

Salt in itself is an environmental factor, he said, explaining that certain organisms are adapted to the low salt levels that the river would contain in its natural state. “If you put higher salt levels in it, they die or don’t reproduce as well. So, they’re gone.”

This incident is the latest setback for the Mahoning River, which has little or no chance of ever being cleaned without at least hundreds of millions of dollars, according to government environmental engineers. The river was polluted by years of dumping by steel mills.

The river is one of the most polluted waterways in America, and is so contaminated that in 1988, the Ohio Department of Health issued a contact ban for the lower 28 miles of the river sediments and fish consumption.

Carmen Rozzi, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering, Pittsburgh District, who was project manager for the cleanup of the Mahoning River, said his agency would defer to the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and local agencies in the investigation of the incident.

But no matter who investigates, “you probably wouldn’t want the fluids in it,” Rozzi said.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, The University of Akron and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).