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Ohio man pleads guilty to dumping contaminated wastewater into river, killing more than 40,000 fish

Story at a glance


  • Mark Shepherd, 72, pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act by dumping about 7,000 gallons of wastewater containing pollutants and hazardous substances into the Scioto River near Kenton on April 17, 2021.

  • The pollutants came from two businesses owned by Shepherd, the Justice Department said.

  • The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ultimately determined that the hazardous substances killed 43,094 fish.

TOLEDO, Ohio (WJW) – An Ohio man has pleaded guilty to killing more than 40,000 fish after admitting to dumping hazardous substances into the Scioto River.

Mark Shepherd, 72, pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act by dumping about 7,000 gallons of wastewater containing pollutants and hazardous substances into the waterway near Kenton on April 17, 2021, the United States Department of Justice wrote in a news release.

Shepherd, from Kenton, was accused of “negligently” flooding the river with 7,000 gallons of the wastewater, which contained ammonia, according to court documents. The pollutants came from two businesses owned by Shepherd, the Justice Department said. One of the businesses specializes in transporting hazardous materials, according to its website.

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to do business — and when your business pollutes Ohio’s natural resources, you will be held accountable,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “I’m grateful for our many partners who work together to keep our land, water and air clean.” 

Authorities were alerted to the dead fish by a fisherman in Hardin County. The wastewater is believed to have flowed nearly 20 miles from where Shepherd was accused of dumping it, according to the release.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ultimately determined that the hazardous substances killed 43,094 fish, which the DNR valued at approximately $22,500.

“The Scioto River is home to abundant fish and other wildlife, and it is a valuable community resource, flowing through more than 230 miles of Ohio,” U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko, of the Northern District of Ohio, was quoted as saying in the release. “As the guilty plea demonstrates, anyone caught illegally discharging substances into our district’s waterways that harm our environment will face prosecution.”

Shepherd’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 12, 2024.

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