Officials discuss black-dust issue

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Cannelton company says it will be cleaned up

Managing Editor

CANNELTON – Members of the Cannelton Board of Public Works and Safety expressed concern last Monday about a new business in town creating black-dust problems.

“Whatever they’re hauling in there, it’s worse than coal ash,” board member and Common Councilman Melvin McBrayer said about operations at what used to be the Can Pallet building. “It’s all over the ground. They’ve got it stacked on the outside in big bundles. The wind was blowing … I could almost taste it in the air.”

He went next door to Eugene Fulkerson’s body shop and home and wiped a finger along some of the cars and a boat, he said, “and if they go at the rate they’re going now, that whole area is going to be worse than anything that anybody’s ever seen … coal dust or clay dust or anything. It is so fine that it doesn’t take but a very little bit of wind to carry (it) two or three blocks, probably, easy.”

“One employee “would drive fast enough that you could see it go up in the air,” McBrayer continued. “You knew it had to be going somewhere besides just straight down.”

The company previously leased space from Perry County Animal Shelter Inc., he said, “and it was more or less enclosed, and they didn’t have to worry about it. This is open.”

He estimated 40 or 50 bags were stacked beside the building. They were covered with tarps, but some “were broke open, they were laying on the ground and all around the front there, where they drove, it was solid black.”

Board member Lynn Fulkerson, also a councilwoman and wife of Eugene Fulkerson, asked what could be done.

City attorney John Werner replied, saying the city had three possible courses of action. The dust may pose a health issue, so the county health officer, Jermie Farmer, should be notified. It could pose an environmental hazard, so the Indiana Department of Environmental Management could be informed. And it could be a zoning issue he said, asking how the area is designated.

“It’s commercial,” Fulkerson said.

“Well, commercial doesn’t mean industrial,” the lawyer said. “We need to see if it’s violating our zoning ordinance.” He suggested all three avenues be explored simultaneously.

The officials speculated about the composition of the dust for a moment before Fulkerson brought her husband’s body shop back into the discussion.

“He said, ‘this is going to ruin my business,’ ” she said.

Werner said the steps he listed are alternatives for the city, adding that private-property occupants could file civil lawsuits “for maintaining a nuisance … if all the civil efforts fall short.”

McBrayer said the company’s workers “were wearing no respirators or anything … if somebody checked those guys’ lungs, they may be in trouble.”

Werner said he would look into the issue.

Company responds

“We’re actually going to clean it up today,” Trent Martin said Thursday. He identified himself as the supervisor for the company and, pointing to a fine black dust covering part of the parking lot, said, “hopefully it won’t be a worry because all of this stuff right here is from the move; we just moved from a building down the street.

We had to move a bunch of bags with this black stuff … we turned a couple of them over in the parking lot once we got up here.”

“It’s actually a manmade coal substitute made up of carbon and silicate,” he explained. “They use it at Waupaca in the furnaces.”

Frankie Erickson, the company’s general manager, said Thursday the product, called WB 101, is not hazardous to the environment, would be cleaned up and “will not be in the air, out in the parking lot, that sort of thing, moving forward. This only happened during the move from one facility to another.”

“That’s proprietary information,” she said when asked about its composition. “I’m not at liberty to discuss our product or our application or Waupaca’s application.”

“The mess that we created will be cleaned up,” she said.