The “fugitive” dusting of iron oxide observed in Crocker may have come from
Magnetics International in Burns Harbor, the Indiana Department of
Environ-mental Management (IDEM) said.
But it may just as well have come from other facilities in the area and in
any case an IDEM inspector must actually see the dust crossing a company’s
property line before IDEM may take enforcement action.
So IDEM spokesman Robert Elstro told the Chesterton Tribune today.
Elstro said that IDEM has in fact recently taken a report from a resident
complaining about iron oxide from Magnetics International. But under IDEM’s
“fugitive dust” regulation, an inspector must actually be on hand to witness
the dust “crossing the property line.”
“We need to visually confirm” that the dust is coming from a particular
facility and is leaving the property, he said. “And there are two other
companies in the area that could be the source of the dust. Without visual
confirmation we can’t take action.”
There is a toll-free number for folks to call to file an environmental
complaint, Elstro said: (800) 451-6027, ex 24464.
But it’s an open question whether IDEM can dispatch inspectors promptly
enough to reach a site in time to witness a violation as it’s occurring.
“How fast we can send someone depends on two factors,” Elstro said: “The
availability of inspectors and the inspection workload.”
Long-time residents of Crocker have told the Tribune that dustings of
the reddish-pinkish iron oxide are nothing unusual and that while the iron
oxide is not itself harmful, it does turn water in bird baths and swimming
One resident, in an e-mail to the Tribune, noted that the powder had
stained both his children’s clothes and his dog’s paws.
On Tuesday, Porter County Health Department Director Keith Letta tentatively
identified the powder as iron oxide and said that Magnetics International
has been the source of previous fugitive-dustings.
Whether or not Magnetics International is the source of the iron oxide which
filtered into Crocker last week, the company does produce the stuff as a
byproduct of acid recycling. The iron oxide is then sold for electronics
applications, according to the company’s website.