Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr. announced that on February 22, 2019, he initiated a conference call with representatives of Governor Holcomb’s office, the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and members of the Commissioner’s staff to discuss the status and steps being taken to address two important issues facing the City of Hammond and its residents.
The first issue discussed was the recent deaths of mute swans in the North Basin of George Lake. IDEM’s Commissioner informed the Mayor that the cause of death on the swan that was recovered from the North Basin and autopsied was due to parasites that has not only impacted body organs but had reached the brain of the swan. IDEM’s commissioner indicated this is very unusual for a parasite to affect the brain of a swan. There was speculation that the mute swan, which is not native to North America may be more susceptible to parasites thus resulting in an unusual amount of swan perishing lately.
The second topic discussed was the elevated lead and cadmium levels found in the air samples being taken by IDEM and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) at the Hammond Sanitary District Pumping station located adjacent to Lakeview Street and Indianapolis Boulevard. The request for the air sampling was made by the City of Hammond to IDEM to determine if Whiting Metals lead emissions were adversely impacting resident’s health. IDEM responded with two Hi-Volume air samplers that obtained 24-hour air samples every 3 days. Those air samples revealed elevated lead readings and resulted in IDEM and USEPA issuing Notices of Violation to Whiting Metals on November 8, 2018.
The Hi- Volume air sampling also noted elevated levels of cadmium. Although lead is regulated by a federal air quality standard there is no such air quality standard for cadmium. The elevated lead and cadmium readings raised immediate concern. The City of Hammond was made aware of a continuous sampler for lead and cadmium which is called XACT. This sampler provided one-hour readings and is attached to a meteorological station. When the monitor was offered to the City of Hammond it jumped at the offer and placed this monitoring trailer next to the IDEM Hi-Volume monitor.
IDEM’s Commissioner stated it has a strong belief the source of the elevated lead and cadmium readings are due to Whiting Metals and that recent sampling data that needs to be quality assured will further buttress their case against Whiting Metals. IDEM’s enforcement case is moving forward and accurate and defensible data is the foundation of success. IDEM’s Commissioner also stated he is working directly with USEPA on this important health and environmental matter to the residents of Robertsdale and Whiting.
IDEM’s Commissioner also established a point of contact with his agency so that the information exchange between his agency and Hammond would be a smooth one.
“I want the public to know that IDEM, the USEPA and the City of Hammond are aware of the environmental situation in proximity to Whiting Metals,” stated Mayor McDermott. “We want to assure the residents that we are working together to monitor these possible violations of federal air standards.”