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Lowellville company, operators avoid nearly all civil fines in 2017 illegal dumping suit

A 23-acre site adjacent to the Mahoning River, once used for illegal dumping of hazardous waste including drilling brine and crude oil, would be maintained as a natural area under a new environmental agreement.
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LOWELLVILLE — The former operators of a village company will avoid nearly all of $145,000 in civil penalties for illegally storing and disposing hazardous waste on 23 acres the company owns along the Mahoning River.

Soil Remediation Inc., its owner David Gennaro of Boardman, and its former plant manager Frank Naples of Poland, were criminally charged nearly eight years ago with illegally disposing of waste from drilling operations, such as brine and crude oil, at the company’s 6065 Arrel-Smith Road address, according to Vindicator archives.

The company, Gennaro and Naples all pleaded guilty in 2015 and were ordered to pay a combined $185,000 in fines and fees, The Vindicator reported. The two men were sentenced to four years’ probation. It’s unclear if their fines were paid within the four-year deadline set during sentencing.

In 2017, state prosecutors — led by then-Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine — brought separate civil action against the company and its operators on behalf of the Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Natural Resources for 17 environmental violations at the site, including illegal disposal of oil and gas drilling waste and hazardous waste and failure to allow EPA inspectors onto the site.

Many of the civil charges include new violations discovered about two weeks after the resolution of the criminal case, court filings show.

Under the conditions of a new environmental covenant and new consent orders drawn up since late June by state prosecutors to resolve the 2017 case, Gennaro is expected to pay a new $140,000 civil penalty. All but $10,000 of that fine would be waived on condition that the 23-acre dumping site be permanently maintained as a natural area.

Naples was also ordered to pay a separate $5,000 fine, with no opportunity for a waiver.

The $15,000 in total fines to be paid would be split evenly between the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, under the terms of individual consent decrees signed by Gennaro and Naples in late June. Both fines must be paid by the end of the year, or the entire balance comes due.

A public comment period on the environmental covenant will be open through early October, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office told Mahoning Matters, after which the parties would return to court to officially enter into the agreement. Visit the Ohio EPA site for instructions on submitting comments.

Under the agreement, the 23-acre plot would be maintained “in perpetuity” as a natural area, meaning it could not be used for industrial, commercial, agricultural or residential activity. That also means no new buildings, roads — save on a certain portion, to provide road access for the company — or any disturbance of the land whatsoever.

The defendants also would also be barred from accepting any petroleum-contaminated soil or any other kinds of waste at the site. Any waste found there would have to be removed within 30 days of its discovery, under the terms of the covenant. As part of the consent order, the company would no longer be covered under its pollutant discharge permit.

For the first 30 days of noncompliance with the orders, defendants would be fined $300 per day, which scales to $1,000 per day after the first 60 days.

Defendants must check in with the EPA on conservation efforts once a year, at least for the first five years after the orders take effect.

Gennaro declined to comment when reached by phone this week, adding he was unaware of the agreement but that he presumed his attorneys were. Court records do not list an attorney who is actively representing Gennaro.

Similarly, Naples said he was unaware of the agreement. Naples' attorney, William Helbley of Poland, did not return a call for comment.

Signatures from Gennaro and Naples appear on their individual consent decrees, which are both dated June 22. The Ohio EPA provided copies of the orders to Mahoning Matters following a records request.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General confirmed to Mahoning Matters the action is current. The spokesperson said though the case spent several years in litigation, that’s not unheard of in environmental enforcement cases. The length of the proceedings often depends on how proactive defendants are about cleaning up their messes.

Lowellville Mayor James Iudiciani said he could not offer an informed comment on the matter, as he was only peripherally aware of it. The village was not involved in the EPA’s enforcement effort or the environmental covenant, he said.



Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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