A Hammond attorney is criticizing state regulators for approving an air pollution permit for a lead reclamation business at the site of a former smelter where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating off-site contamination.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management on Dec. 22 renewed a 10-year permit for Whiting Metals, which reclaims and blends lead and solder from scrap. It operates on part of the former Federated Metals site in Whiting, where remediation efforts began in 1992.
Despite requests from the Hammond City Council and residents, IDEM never scheduled a public hearing or meeting on the permit for Whiting Metals, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.
IDEM has said it decided not to hold a hearing in part because there were “few changes contained in the renewal permit” and that “permit changes will decrease actual emissions.”
David Dabertin, an attorney and Hammond resident, had submitted public comments to IDEM questioning whether a prior permit was legally transferred to Whiting Metals. He had also urged the state agency to delay a decision on the air permit until after the full extent of off-site soil contamination had been determined.
Dabertin on Wednesday criticized IDEM’s approval of the permit and its decision not to hold a public hearing or meeting.
“I think the issuance of a lead permit in an area where lead may be an issue without obtaining the test results is foolish and bordering on the negligent,” he told The Times.
The remediation efforts the EPA began in 1992 included capping a 10-acre landfill on the shore of Lake George in 2005 as part of a six-year, $3.35 million cleanup. The site also includes the 9-acre former smelter.
The EPA began sampling at properties in November 2016 near the former Federated Metals site to determine if heavy metals from the plant might have contaminated nearby residential areas. More sampling was conducted in March.
After the EPA sampled the landfill in May, an analysis showed a link between materials in the landfill and materials in soils to the north of the plant. The agency has designated another soil sampling site in the area.
Whiting Mayor Joseph Stahura said the contamination levels found so far have not been “really scary” or significantly above EPA’s threshold.