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Former Environmental Coordinator for John Deere Pleads Guilty to Violations of Clean Water Act

October 15, 2010

Rock Island, Ill. – Sentencing is scheduled on Feb. 4, 2011, for a former employee of Deere & Co. (“John Deere”), Leroy Hill, who entered pleas of guilty late yesterday to permit violations of the Clean Water Act concerning industrial wastewater discharged to Moline’s sewage treatment plant and making a false statement. During the plea hearing and in court documents, Hill, 60, of the 2100 block of West 58th Street, Davenport, Iowa, admitted that while he was employed as the Environmental Coordinator at John Deere’s Seeding and Cylinder facility at Moline, he violated terms of an industrial wastewater pretreatment program approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in reports submitted to the City of Moline concerning samples of wastewater discharged to Moline’s sewage treatment plant.

According to court documents, John Deere manufactures farm machinery and equipment cylinders at the Seeding and Cylinder facility on River Drive in Moline. The manufacturing process generated wastewater containing heavy metal pollutants, including chromium, nickel, copper, lead and zinc. Under a permit issued by the City of Moline as part of a program approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, John Deere was to sample and analyze the wastewater being discharged from the wastewater pre-treatment system at the facility to the Moline Sewage Treatment Plant, and report the test results to the City of Moline.

In court documents, Hill admitted that from 2000 until February 2005, when he left John Deere, he routinely failed to submit to the City of Moline discharge monitoring reports that included all of the wastewater discharge samples taken at the Seeding and Cylinder facility. During the plea hearing and in court documents, Hill specifically agreed that he failed to report a violation of the permit regarding a wastewater discharge sample taken on or about May 18, 2004, that revealed the level of chromium exceeded the maximum allowable limit set forth in the permit. Further, Hill admitted that he failed to report that another sample, taken on or about July 2, 2004, exceeded the maximum allowable limit for the level of nickel as set forth in the permit. Hill further admitted that on or about Sept. 14, 2004, he made a false statement and certification concerning the Clean Water Act when he certified reports mailed to the City of Moline as being “true, accurate and complete” when he knew that the water samples for the preceding four-month period did not include several wastewater discharge sampling analyses, including those from May 18 and July 2, 2004 that he specifically entered a plea of guilty.

Under terms of the permit, known discharges of wastewater from the Seeding and Cylinder facility which exceeded allowable levels of heavy metal pollutants required Deere to notify the City of Moline within 24 hours. Deere was also required to provide written notice to Moline of such within five working days. Such notice was to include reasons for the violation and future steps to prevent reoccurrence.

The statutory penalty for each violation of the Clean Water Act is up to three years imprisonment and a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $50,000 per day of the violation. The penalty for making a false statement and for causing a clean water act false statement is up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Cannon is prosecuting the case, with assistance from Crissy Pellegrin of EPA’s Regional Counsel’s Office in Chicago. The charges result from the investigation conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division of EPA.

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