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Kansas metal finishing company charged with violating Clean Water Act

By Trevor Graff | April 16, 2014

A Minneapolis plating company and its owner, a former city council member, have been charged with 20 counts of violating the federal Clean Water Act and four counts of false reporting after allegedly dumping chemicals used in the company's metal finishing operations into the city's sewer system.

Kevin Cline, 55, and C&R Plating were indicted last week in U.S. District Court in Topeka after city officials in Minneapolis concluded that Cline falsely represented the discharge of zinc, a chemical used commonly in metal finishing, to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.


Clean Water Indictment

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Minneapolis, population 2,022, is the county seat in Ottawa County. Water from its municipal treatment plant is discharged into a tributary of the Solomon River. Sludge from the city's treatment lagoon is spread on land.

C&R Plating is required to report semi-annually to KDHE the levels of zinc it discharges into the sewer. According to the filed charges, Kline began a "scheme to defraud" KDHE in 2007 by presenting false samples and analyses of the company's discharges to conceal the fact they were untreated when dumped in the sewer.

Brian Bowles, director of the City of Minneapolis Public Works, said the company was the only entity connected to the city's sewer system that could cause zinc levels to exceed allowable limits.

The public works division began working with KDHE to sample water in the sewer system downstream of C&R in August 2013. In 59 days of testing, the samples from 55 days exceeded the daily limit for zinc. The company claimed to meet compliance levels of 2.61 milligrams per liter in its filings, but the city’s testing showed average levels of 40 milligrams per liter. The highest daily level recorded was 648 milligrams per liter, more than 250 times the maximum compliance level.

Cline served on the Minneapolis City Council from April 2013 to December 2013.

Criminal cases concerning Clean Water Act violations are handled at the federal level by the Environmental Protection Agency. Smaller administrative investigations are handled by KDHE. Agency officials there said they deal with about 35 or 40 administrative investigations each year.

Initial proceedings in Cline's trial are set to begin April 22.

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