The reddish-pinkish dust coating the ground along 1050N in the Crocker area
would appear to be iron oxide from the Magnetics International facility just
north of the neighborhood in Burns Harbor.
Porter County Health Department Director Keith Letta told the Chesterton
Tribune today that a haz-mat team dispatched to investigate what he
called “fugitive dust” has seen the stuff before and that on those occasions
it’s been identified “without a doubt” as iron oxide from Magnetics
The dust—essentially rust—is “innocuous,” Letta said.
Letta hastened to add that, at the moment, he has “no science to back up”
his conclusion that the dust recently observed in Crocker is from Magnetics
International. He did say that he’s referred the matter to the Merrillville
office of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).
Franz Mullings, the environmental officer for the Magnetics International
facility, said that he has “not seen” the dust in question and can’t comment
on it at this time. Mullings noted that IDEM makes regular inspections of
the facility and that he will himself look into the matter.
Meanwhile, Chesterton MS4 Operator Jennifer Gadzala, the town’s de facto
environmental officer, said that she would also be taking samples of the
dust later this morning.
The powder came to the attention of the Tribune today when a reader
in Westwood Manor reported in an e-mail that his children’s “clothes and
shoes” were covered with the stuff after they played outside on Saturday and
that his dog’s paws were similarly turned “pink.”
When asked whether she might know anything about the dust, a long-time
Crocker resident told the Tribune that she’s seen it before. “It’s
not supposed to be bothersome but it does play havoc with swimming pools and
bird baths,” she said.
Iron oxide is produced at the Magnetics International facility as a
byproduct of acid recycling and then sold for electronic applications,
according to the company’s website.
As of deadline an IDEM spokesman had not returned a call from the Tribune.