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Corydon Council stands off against Daramic

In a rare show of force Monday night, the Corydon Town Council had the first reading of a quickly-designed sewer ordinance created to limit the amount of trichloroethylene discharged into wastewater by Daramic.
The ordinance will require sampling of Daramic’s waste stream three times per week to determine compliance. The cost of the sampling will be charged to Daramic as an industrial monitoring fee under the town’s current sewer use ordinance.
Town Council President Fred Cammack said the town’s new sewer plant started having problems near Thanksgiving of last year as sewage in the tanks wasn’t settling properly. Further investigation discovered the bacteria that helps the treatment of sewage was being killed off by trichloroethylene (TCE), which also allowed filamentous bacteria to start to overtake the sewer system.
If the filamentous bacteria was allowed to take over the system, sludge would be discharged into Little Indian Creek, causing all sorts of environmental issues, Cammack said.
After discovering what was causing the tanks not to settle, the sewer plant had to be shut down, the tanks had to be chlorinated and new bacteria had to be added. The estimate for fixing the original problem, Cammack said, was $15,700.
Cammack said the TCE issue may have been going on for some time before Thanksgiving, but because of the some million gallons of water used daily by Tyson Foods, the solvent may have been diluted when Daramic was using the same, older sewer plant as Tyson. Daramic’s waste now goes to the new sewer plant.
TCE is a high-strength industrial solvent used by Daramic to degrease and clean metal. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some people who drink water containing TCE in excess of the maximum contaminant level over many years could experience problems with their liver and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
In addition, TCE is one of the chemicals suspected of causing a cluster of childhood leukemia cases due to drinking water contamination in the town of Woburn, Mass., in the early 1980s. The subsequent lawsuit against the polluting company was the subject of the 1995 book and 1998 film ‘A Civil Action.’
On the heels of addressing the TCE issue from last year, Larry Fessel, who works at Corydon’s new sewer plant, said he received a phone call from Daramic at 4 a.m. Monday to say that 20 gallons of emulsion oil had been discharged into the town’s sewer lines. Fessel said he won’t know the results of the problem for at least several days as the oil works its way to the sewer plant. The oil could, he said, float harmlessly and be included in sludge removal or it could cause additional expense to the town if it requires the tanks to be cleaned again.
Cammack told representatives of Daramic that they had until the next board meeting, on March 8, to address both problems. He said it was unfortunate that the board had to go through the trouble of reworking the ordinance; however, it was the only way to get Daramic’s attention, and the town wasn’t going to allow the industry to ‘kick us around.’
‘As a part of this community, and a lifelong member of this community, I regret that you feel like our industry has kicked you around. I didn’t realize there was a problem since no limit was set before,’ Roger Calloway, Daramic site manager, told the board. ‘My intention, now that I know about it, is to correct the problem.’
Calloway said later that he believed the levels of TCE amounts discharged were below drinking water standards. ‘But I understand his frustration and we’ll do whatever we have to do to comply,’ he said.
Cammack said he hopes Daramic takes the issue seriously, and if no progress is made by the company by next month’s meeting, the amended ordinance likely will be passed.
‘(Daramic) kept talking about a May deadline, but if we do that, then they would probably drag their feet and it would probably be Christmas before anything is done. We need something done right now,’ Cammack said. ‘We’ve seen this more than once and, unfortunately, once is too many.’
Under the current sewer ordinance, the first violation results in a $250 fine, followed by fines of $500, $1,000 and $2,500 for each additional violation.