Archive for February, 2010

Essex Spill in St. Mary’s – March 2009

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Just in case you missed it! Fort Wayne Essex Spill Early March 2009 –

Very interesting viewpoints. I think that Essex, Ft. Wayne, IDEM, Need to re-evaluate a lot of items. The tank that leaked should have secondary containment, which it did (containment vault) but secondary containment should be large enough to handle the entire amount from the original tank. Then the viewpoint (state environmental officials said there is no risk to human health) seems a bit premature because (The crews wore protective hazardous-material suits and respirators to filter the air they breathe). The chemicals are still able to cause burns even in a diluted state (Phenol is corrosive and even when diluted can cause serious burns after prolonged contact)….and it sounds like the fish kill was due to ice?

Toxic soup in St. Marys

Chemicals spill from Essex Group; river ice masks extent of fish kill

Dan Stockman
The Journal Gazette

A wire factory spilled hundreds of gallons of hazardous chemicals into the St. Marys River along the Rivergreenway and upstream from two popular parks, but state environmental officials said there is no risk to human health.

The spill, which involved chemicals that can burn the skin even when diluted, occurred Jan. 22 and was discovered Jan. 23. Essex Group, 1601 Wall St., notified state and federal officials that an estimated 300 gallons of a chemical mixture had spilled from a rooftop tank.

The tank was surrounded by a containment vault, but the chemical spilled out of the vault and into a stormwater collection system that drained into the river just north of Taylor Street, according to a report filed by Essex with the National Response Center.

The chemical mixture was about 50 percent phenol, about 40 percent petroleum distillates, and about 10 percent cresylic acid, Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokeswoman Amber Finkelstein said. Containing and cleaning up the spill has been difficult because the river is covered by a layer of ice.

Phenol is corrosive and even when diluted can cause serious burns after prolonged contact, according to National Library of Medicine data. Petroleum distillates are toxic and flammable, while cresylic acid can cause severe burns. In 1992, an Essex worker was burned on about 40 percent of his body in a cresylic acid spill inside the facility.

Some fish have apparently been killed in the accident, Finkelstein said, but it’s unclear how many.

“The effect on aquatic life still being monitored,” she said. “Because of the ice we don’t know the complete impact.”

Friday, a crew from Environmental Remediation Services in Fort Wayne was using a chain saw to cut huge slabs of ice from the river then lift them by crane to large roll-off waste bins. The crews wore protective hazardous-material suits and respirators to filter the air they breathe.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources spokesman Phil Bloom said a half-dozen small minnows were found dead in the spill area, but it’s hard to know whether more fish were affected because of the ice.

“What complicates the process here is because it is moving water, even under the ice, any evidence (of a fish kill) could be well downstream by now,” Bloom said.

Though the St. Marys River is not very clean, it does support a fish population, according to DNR studies.

Essex spokesman Hank Pennington said the chemical blend is used in its manufacturing process; the company, which employs about 200, makes wire, cable and piping. Pennington said the leak occurred because of an equipment malfunction.

He did not have an estimate of how long the cleanup will take or what it will cost but said the company will fulfill its obligations regardless.

“We’ll do what we need to do,” Pennington said.

The spill occurred just across the river from the Rivergreenway trail and just upstream from Swinney Park and Headwaters Park, but parks department officials did not know about the spill until contacted by The Journal Gazette on Friday. IDEM’s Finkelstein said the agency contacted the Fort Wayne Fire Department and local homeland security officials.

Fire department spokeswoman Susan Banta said the department did not contact the parks department because “we were not asked to make an official response.”

Local Director of Homeland Security Bernie Beier said parks officials were not notified because there was no danger to humans outside of the immediate area of the spill.

“IDEM felt the majority of it was trapped in the ice,” Beier said.

He said IDEM’s air testing showed there was no vapor threat outside the area and no threat from the water beyond where crews were already working to remove the ice.

“Had IDEM said, ‘There is a risk or a potential risk or we can’t verify the risk,’ there would have been more notifications,” Beier said. “They’re the ones that said there’s no threat to people beyond the immediate spill area.”

Clint Keller | The Journal Gazette

An environmental crew wearing hazardous materials suits and respirators uses chain saws and other tools to cut slabs of river ice and haul them away in the picture that was posted!

Maumee River Advocate working to improve locally!

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

An article written by a local blogger, Robert Rouse. Thank You Robert!

Change starts at the ground roots level


Friday, February 12, 2010

By Robert Rouse


Abigail Frost

Abigail Frost took the mantle of a grassroots organizer to the nth degree after purchasing a home that overlooked the Maumee River in Fort Wayne, IN.  What she found in the river below her home compelled her to found and organize the Save Maumee Grassroots Organization.

The riverbank must have looked like a dump site to Frost.  Trash and debris littered the banks of the Maumee beneath her home.  Frost and her army of volunteers do their best to raise awareness about the problems with not just the Maumee River, but with the other two rivers (St. Jospeh and St. Mary’s) that converge with the Maumee near downtown Fort Wayne.

Each Earth Day, the group organizes a clean-up of the banks.  One year resulted in more that two tons of garbage extracted.

Here is a little more information about the Three Rivers – which, by the way, I live less than 100 yards from the confluence – provided by Save Maumee.

The 3 Rivers in Fort Wayne, Indiana appear brown and muddy, but the clay, silt bottom makes the color less than appealing to the average American.

Little do you know that the color is the very least of this watershed’s problems.

The St. Joe (starting at the bottom of this picture) is where over 200,000 people get their drinking water.

The St. Mary’s (on the far right) flows through several northeast IN counties and has high pollution and frequent flooding.

The Maumee River has high mercury, PCB and E. coli content, Fish Consumption advisories and is filling up with sediment and garbage. It also flows into the largest fresh water source in the world…The Great Lakes.

For even more information about this outstanding organization, please visit their website.

Ironically, the City of Fort Wayne appears to have developed a green policy, but it seems more directed at businesses than turning the city green.  According to the city’s web site:


Fort Wayne, IN

As of February 9, 2010, the Green City Business Program has trained 90 businesses and organizations. This growing program recognizes organizations that have completed all the necessary requirements to become certified as a Green City Business of the City of Fort Wayne.

The Green City Business Program is designed for businesses with existing facilities that work toward reducing waste and inefficiencies in four areas: Pollution Prevention, Solid Waste Reduction, Energy Conservation, and Water Conservation. The program is not geared for home office businesses.

As of February 1, 2010 there are 18 certified Green City Businesses in Fort Wayne.

I do have to give the city a little credit for their implementation of a Green City Newsletter that offers tips on saving the environment and better utilizing energy.

I asked former Allen County Democratic Chairman, Kevin Knuth what he thought could be done at the city or individual level to turn the environment around and he said, “I have to give that some thought. The first OBSTACLE I see is that basically, it often requires an up-front expenditure to save money in the long term. And the public doesn’t seem to ‘get it’.”   He added, “The city does offer re-cycling. I also remember when they used to take yard waste separately – but they had to stop because it cost too much. So now we put grass clippings in landfills

I want to thank Abigail Frost, Kevin Knuth, and City Council member, Karen Goldner for their assistance.  If you have any ideas or suggestions on grassroots efforts to save the planet one neighborhood at a time, leave me a comment.

Sierra Club – EPA Waste Site Map

Saturday, February 27th, 2010,-90.791016&spn=23.74567,56.25&z=4&source=embed

Google Map created by Sierra Club from EPA – Includes sites, hazardous sites and spill sites!

Is there one near you?

2 Coal Ash Sites in Indiana – 31 identified nationally so far hundreds expected

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Coal ash is currently being toted as an “green” additive to concrete.  Just to clairify… Coal ash is considered hazardous if it is released into air or water, yet when added to concrete it is then rendered safe?  Eventually, it would be re-released into the environment when the concrete is removed and ground into gravel again.  More on this topic to come.

Fact Sheet For NE Indiana

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Fact Sheet – Understanding the Depth of Northeast Indiana Water Related Issues

Response to Mayor Tom Henry’s State of the City Speech

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Local FOX News Story – Save Maumee Weighs In –  Watch here while it lasts….

Reported by: Marchelle McConnell

Friday, February 19 2010

Monday Mayor Tom Henry spoke about his efforts to improve the rivers in his state of the city address.  The Mayors River efforts are connected to a federal mandate issues by the Environmental Protection Agency. The city is required to improve the rivers by 2025.  The city has been working toward this for years. A city official says the reason the mayor included the rivers in his speech this year was to show his commitment to the mandatory project.

Abigail Frost, a local clean river activist and founder of Save Maumee, wants to see the city take more action. Frost says “I see them bringing up the rivers as movement and progression, yes. I eagerly anticipate what the city has planned in addition to the mandatory EPA regulated long term controlled plan.”

Frost says the city always has plans, but she wants to see more hands on projects.

Frank Suarez, with the City Utilities and Public Works, says “Right now we have the upper Healy interceptor which is a pipe that 52 inch wide. It’s going in on the North side of Fort Wayne near DuPont and Leo Road, and it’s going to relieve the amount of overflow from storm sewers.”

The city will start installing another sewer separation system in two weeks at the intersection of Woodrow and Vance.
Frost says the work the city is doing is progress, but to meet their goal by 2025 more needs to be done now.

Verbatim Excerpts: Fort Wayne State of the City address

Mayor Thomas C. Henry

…We are working hard to capture our fair share of stimulus funds because they bring jobs and new investment to our community. So far the City has secured more than $19 million in stimulus funds, not to mention the millions going to schools, non-profits and businesses. This year, $3 million of that money will pay for repaving key thoroughfares in our city – Jefferson and Washington boulevards, Wayne and Berry streets, Rudisill Boulevard and East State Boulevard.

This new money will also improve our sewers, trails and airports, plus social service and law enforcement programs and mostly importantly create and retain jobs.

I am also working hard to create the necessary infrastructure for business growth and success of Fort Wayne residents and families.

This spring, construction will start on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge on Clinton Street, creating a new gateway into downtown. With about 80% of the cost coming from state and federal funds, this bridge is designed for all users: vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, and will remind people every day of the legacy of America’s best-known civil rights leader.

I cannot overlook my commitment to investing in trails, including $3 million of stimulus funds going into their expansion and improvements. With the completion of Phase 4 of the Towpath Trail this year, you will be able to walk or bike across Allen County from Aboite Township to New Haven on 49 contiguous miles of multiuse trails.

This is a landmark achievement for our community and has happened only because the City worked with the County, New Haven, Aboite New Trails, Northwest Allen Trails and the Greenway Consortium.

In 2010 our City Utilities division will concentrate on providing the high-quality service and system enhancements that improve our quality of life, strengthen neighborhoods and support job growth through the increased capacity of our water and sewer systems.

Our rivers are Fort Wayne’s signature natural feature. They define us and unify us.

I am working hard to transform them into a landmark asset we all can enjoy. City Utilities will continue to comply with the federally mandated yet unfunded Consent Decree.

This year investments of nearly $82 million will go to projects that reduce the raw sewage that goes into our rivers and provide clean drinking water to our residents. Currently we have about one billion gallons of combined sewer overflow going into our local waterways. When this project is done, we will have reduced the untreated overflow by 90%.

Under the leadership of Bob Kennedy, 2009 Public Works Leader of the Year, we are reducing the threat of flooding to Fort Wayne families. This year, with a $1.5 million FEMA and Indiana Department of Homeland Security grant, we will purchase about 52 homes through voluntary buyouts in the Junk Ditch area. We will buy the homes at market value, restore the land to greenspace and forever end the concern about high water for these families.

In 2009 we protected about 150 homes from flooding on the St. Marys River with the flood-control projects in the Woodhurst, Southwood Park and Park-Thompson neighborhoods. With these buyouts and projects on our three rivers, we are closer than ever to the day when residential flooding is a thing of the past in Fort Wayne.

When I ran for mayor, I called for renewed attention to Fort Wayne’s rivers.

I am pleased to see that from Invent Tomorrow’s community visits and surveys the Number 1 request from our citizens was to use our waterways. As a result, a group called “Friends of the Rivers” was formed.

Working in conjunction with IPFW, a new event is coming to Fort Wayne on June 26th: the IPFW RiverFest.

Its purpose is to raise awareness and appreciation of the rivers and to use them for entertainment and fun. I think this event is an important kick-off as we look for ways to create riverfront development.

Infrastructure improvements aren’t just new pavement and sewer replacements.

I am also working hard to invest in neighborhoods and commercial corridors.

Last year, I launched the “Commercial Façade Grant” program that transformed $400,000 of City funds for exterior improvements into more than $1 million of private investment in targeted areas. This year I am pledging $260,000 from the City, which once again could result in more than $1 million of private money going into 13 projects. Additionally, I am committed to improvements that make our commercial corridors friendly for visitors and businesses.

The momentum of downtown revitalization must continue especially following the opening of Parkview Field. Cindy and I are already looking forward to another season of baseball this year.

I am particularly proud of the two-way conversion of Calhoun Street. I know it was a challenging project for some, but I am confident we are going to see it pay off by providing infrastructure that encourages store-front development while retaining the key features people like to see such as wide sidewalks, significant trees and outside dining.

While we celebrate the progress we have made in revitalizing downtown, the City will remain a driving force in fostering private investment in the heart of our city. Working in partnership with the Downtown Improvement District and the Alliance, we’re poised to give our downtown plan an update. I will want to hear from you about how we can make our downtown thriving and interesting every day, year-round.

Because of these successes, I am working hard to engage you in important community decisions. I have seen time and again that Fort Wayne residents have great ideas and want to be heard.

For instance, your input has been critical in our bike and sidewalk plans. I have also enlisted help from key stakeholders for the Social Service Summits, Tree Commission and the Southtown Advisory Committee…

GE PLANT SPILL IN Fort Wayne Rivers!

Friday, February 26th, 2010

So “377,000 gallons of coolant was spilled [that]contained a corrosion inhibitor called 3D Trasar 3DT289, which contains up to 5 percent phosphoric acid and up to 5 percent sulfuric acid, both of which can be hazardous at higher concentrations.”

It is important to note that after tests are taken up to several hours later, the damage had been done to the St. Mary’s. The “coolant” will pass along downstream and become diluted.  It is naive to think that “it should pose no danger to residents or the environment.”

Phosphoric Acid – The phosphate may persist indefinitely in water. Is considered hazardous and burns skin….see for yourself. –

Sulfuric Acid  is a musculoskeletal toxicant, respiratory toxicant, skin or sense organ toxicant

No fines assessed?  What do you think?

Published:February 26, 2010 3:00 a.m.

GE plant coolant spills in river; no threat seen


Benjamin Lanka and Dan Stockman
The Journal Gazette




More than 300,000 gallons of coolant water spilled into the St. Marys River from General Electric’s Taylor Street plant this week, but company and state officials said it should pose no danger to residents or the environment.

GE employees discovered a water tower line break at 4 a.m. Monday, according to Matt Conkrite, company spokesman.

The leak was stopped by 10 a.m., but not before an estimated 377,000 gallons of the coolant spilled into the river, according to records from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Conkrite said the coolant water is used to keep machinery such as the air conditioner cool and also can be used as fire suppressant.

It should not cause health problems for residents, he said.

“We know for a fact there are traces of chlorine, but they are identified at levels well within normal city water,” Conkrite said.

The coolant also contained a corrosion inhibitor called 3D Trasar 3DT289, which contains up to 5 percent phosphoric acid and up to 5 percent sulfuric acid, both of which can be hazardous at higher concentrations. The product is used in water systems to prevent lime deposits and other buildup that can clog pipes, valves and tanks.

Conkrite said the levels found in the river after testing were not “a threat to anyone or the environment.”

Attempts to reach Environmental Remediation Services of Fort Wayne, which handled the cleanup, were unsuccessful Thursday.

IDEM spokeswoman Amber Finkelstein said water samples were taken in the St. Marys River both upstream and downstream from where the stormwater pipe empties into the water.

“At this time there’s been no sign of stress to aquatic life,” Finkelstein said.

Conkrite said the break occurred on an older line at the Taylor Street plant and the company was trying to correct the problem, possibly by bypassing the old line altogether.

The line that broke was a 16-inch pipe below a concrete floor, according to the state.

The coolant came out of the break and ran partly to the plant’s basement, or pit, and partly out a side garage door to the loading dock and into the storm drain.

Conkrite said the spill caused no damage to the rest of the plant.