From the Rock River Times:

On a Sunday in the late 1970s, Mike Molander was performing his assigned duties as a pollution control technician at the Amerock Corporation when he said he witnessed the suspicious pouring of highly toxic materials into an old farmer’s well located at the facility.

The old well head, from a farm that was used on the land before Amerock purchased the property, was where construction was under way for a new addition to the massive plant on Auburn Street, Molander said. The 10-year employee said he witnessed a curious, unexplainable siphoning of nickel and hexavalent chromium liquid from containers into the well head by three employees.

Molander’s job at the time was to collect water samples from around the hardware manufacturing plant for testing, then he was to report the results to the federally-run Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“It was a holiday when nobody was around,” Molander told The Rock River Times in an exclusive interview. “I didn’t know anyone else was in the building. I was walking around while going on my route. The company was building the new tool room with a climate-controlled environment.”

Molander said the expansion featured wall and ceiling construction, but the floor was not yet finished, and the well head was still accessible.

“I heard voices coming from the north end,” Molander said. “I looked over, and here was [sic] these three guys with a container that was used to put chromium and nickel in, about 25 to 30 gallons. Those containers held very, very toxic waste. They had a lot of that stuff lying around. They had one of those containers with a hose on top, siphoning the fluids from the drum. There was no reason to put fluids into the well head.”

Molander identified two of the three men as maintenance foreman Rollie Lindquist and maintenance lead man John Dahle.

Molander, who possesses a certificate of competency from the EPA to allow him to perform this type of work in a professional manner, has been a whistleblower no one would hear until now. He said during his time at Amerock in his pollution control job, Amerock never had negative citations from the EPA or the Rockford Sanitary Department regarding polluting.

“As part of my job, I had to do Federal Registry testing,” Molander said. “I had to do a week’s worth of samples from all over the building, test them and incubate them in a refrigerator. I recorded results and did analysis, then filled out a form for my supervisor. It took 21 days to do the testing process, seven days of collecting, seven for incubation and seven for final analysis. The tests were to determine the quality of effluent (waste water) BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand). COD tells you basically how much oxygen the chemicals are seeking from the water.”

Water that came from the plating lines and other machines was monitored by Amerock and the EPA beginning in the mid-1970s, Molander said, when new EPA guidelines came out for waste water put into the city sanitation system.

After seeing the siphoning of chemicals from the drums into the well head, Molander took his observations to his boss, Roger Julin, who was in charge of all laboratory, pollution control and chemical research activities.

“Monday, I went and told my boss, Roger Julin,” Molander said. “He said he thought that was unusual. He told me he would look into it and get back to me. A couple days later, I asked him for information. He said he talked to the proper people and that everything was under control and not to worry about it. That, to me, was really strange. It never went anywhere.”

Dissatisfied with the answer he received, Molander said he called the City of Rockford Sanitary District a week later.

“I called the Compliance Department,” Molander said. “I had been down there on a few occasions as part of my job. I left messages, but they never responded back.”

Molander said he left a message for the department supervisor, Violet Chen.

“No one ever got back to me,” he said. “Her husband was in charge of the Rockford EPA at the time. I told them the same thing. I mentioned I had talked to the Sanitary Department to see if I had the right department. They never got back to me. It never went anywhere.”

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