Chesterton Tribune



Utility board endorses higher zinc pollutant limit

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The Chesterton Utility Service Board voted unanimously at its Zoom meeting Monday night to raise the limit on zinc which an industrial customer may discharge from 0.5 milligrams per liter of water to 2.61 milligrams.

That was the recommendation of an exhaustive study conducted by Superintendent Dave Ryan at the request of Urschel Laboratories Inc., which is seeking a higher zinc limit after being found in violation of the current one 23 times over the last three and a half years--and five times so far in 2020.

Municipalities may set the limits for metal pollutants based on site-specific conditions, including the local treatment plant’s efficiency in treating wastes; its history of compliance with its NPDES permit limits; the condition of the body of water into which the treatment plant flows its treated effluent (in Chesterton’s case, the East Branch of the Little Calumet River); the retention, use, and disposal of its sewer sludge; and worker health and safety concerns.

As Ryan notes in his report to the Service Board, the Chesterton Utility’s current limit on zinc--0.5 milligrams per liter of water--is among the most stringent of surrounding treatment plants: Portage’s is 2.87; Valparaiso’s, 5; Michigan City’s, 7.5; and LaPorte’s, 12.

Still, such a comparison of Chesterton’s “limits to those of any surrounding municipality holds no validity as an indicator of what our values should be, as the analysis of local limits is truly site specific, encompassing the (treatment plant’s) removal efficiency of (pollutants of concern), the mix of residential, commercial, and industrial dischargers, and the flow volume of the plant,” as Ryan stated in his report.

Although the study found that the Utility could raise the zinc limit as high as 3 to 4 milligrams per liter of water without impeding the successful operation of the treatment plant, Ryan recommended a limit no higher than 2.61 because Urschel’s current Federal Categorical limit is already 2.61. “It would not make sense to raise the limit higher than 2.61 if our reason for change would be only to benefit or help Urschel,” he stated.

Members accordingly voted to endorse the higher zinc limit, as well as a lower silver one, from 0.5 to 0.3. To codify those recommended limit changes formally, the Town Council must amend the authorizing ordinance. And those limit changes must also be approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

“A comparison of our local limits to our neighbors’ shows we’re doing a good job of managing our effluent into the lake in a safe, environmentally responsible manner,” President Larry Brandt said.

Member John Schnadenberg, for his part, expressed his gratitude to Ryan for conducting the study, which by his doing in-house saved something on the order of $15,000 in a consultant’s fees. “Thanks, Dave, for your work on limits,” Schnadenberg said. “That report is pretty extensive. And it’s an important topic for Urschel, getting that limit back to a manageable level.”

Last Thought

Member Scot McCord took a moment at the end of the meeting to wish everyone good health. “We’ll get through this pandemic,” he promised.



Posted 5/21/2020




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