WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a Kansas metal finishing business for allegedly dumping untreated wastewater into a city sewer system, then submitting fraudulent samples and reports of analysis to conceal the pollution from state environmental regulators.
A 24-count indictment filed late Wednesday accuses C & R Plating and its owner, Kevin L. Cline, both of Minneapolis, Kan., of discharging high levels of zinc into the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The city’s treated wastewater is discharged into the Solomon River via Lindsey Creek and an unnamed tributary.
Cline, 55, did not immediately return a phone message left Thursday at his company’s office, and the court record does not contain the name of an attorney representing him.
Federal prosecutors have accused the company and its owner with 20 violations of the Clean Water Act between August and October of last year, including the discharge at times of 100 times the permitted maximum limits for zinc and pH levels.
One count also charges them with making a false statement to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, another count with illegally introducing pollutants into the sewer system, one count for failure to report a bypass of pretreatment equipment, and one count for failure to notify regulators of changes to its wastewater pretreatment equipment.
The city notified the Environmental Protection Agency in September after finding excessively high zinc levels in sludge at the bottom of a lagoon at the treatment plant. The city contends C & R Plating is the only industry which connects to its sewer system that could cause the city to exceed the sludge land application limit for zinc.
Representatives from the Minneapolis Public Works began in August to take samples from the sewer system downstream from C & R Plating. They found that of the 59 days that samples were taken, the daily limits for zinc were exceeded for 55 days, according to the indictment.
The company is required under its discharge permit to submit samples of the wastewater being sent to the sewer system to a qualified laboratory, and then submit the test results to the KDHE, prosecutors say.
The indictment alleges that beginning in 2007, Cline devised a scheme to defraud KDHE by submitting false and fraudulent samples and reports of analysis to conceal the fact that untreated wastewater was being discharged into the city’s sewer system.
If convicted of introducing pollutants into a sewer system, Cline faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The remaining counts carry a potential sentence upon conviction of three years in federal prison and a fine of $50,000 a day, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.