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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.