Chesterton Tribune

Health Dept IDs red dust in Crocker as iron oxide

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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 International.

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.



Posted 3/9/2010