The mission of Blackford County Concerned Citizens is to improve the quality of life of Blackford County, Indiana residents by reducing the incidence of diseases, primarily through citizen action to investigate the diseases that are prevalent and by advocating to have these diseases investigated.
The public health study is up and running! Last February, several of you came to City Hall to provide input to our survey. We listened and incorporated your feedback into the study. Last weekend, students from Purdue Fort Wayne walked door-to-door in snow, sleet and rain to help launch our online health survey. Thank you, students, for helping us get started. We appreciate your care for our community! Over the next several weeks, residents and students will be going door-to-door asking you to take part in the study. Please welcome them!
As president of Blackford County Concerned Citizens, I have been involved in the design of this research project from the very beginning. It is wonderful to see it up and running. The survey can be taken online at https://tinyurl.com/PublicHealthBlackford. If you are over 65, there will be very few questions. But someone from Purdue University in West Lafayette will call you back to complete the survey.
Joanna is the Project Ambassador in the community for our student. If you would like to help go door-to-door in Hartford City or Montpellier to “spread the word” about the online health survey, please let Joanna know. She will get you connected! Email her at blackfordcoconcernedcitizens[at]gmail[dot]com. Thank you!
It has been a while since you have heard from us via this newsletter, but lots has been happening despite the pandemic disruptions. As I have said before, things take time and we are in this for the long haul. We have several things to tell you. First of all, professors at Purdue West Lafayette have joined our research team and we have shifted focus from environmental compliance to public health. Many of you know me and you know that I am not a fan of zoom. But here we are! We secured a $25,000 Trailblazer Grant from Indiana CTSI Community Health Partnerships and were well on the way to getting things in motion before we realized that – wait a minute – this is the first time we have met face-to-face! So we took a photo to mark the occasion. Our team met via zoom, applied for a grant via zoom, and set things in motion via zoom. Now it’s time to start meeting in person, which takes me to the next topic.
As president of Blackford County Concerned Citizens, I have been involved in the design of this research project from the very beginning. On Saturday, February 19th, we are asking for your involvement as residents of Blackford County to ensure that the health survey covers all of your concerns. There may be questions that you want to be included that are not yet on the survey. Saturday morning is your chance to give us your preferences. Please come to City Hall, meet some of the research team members, get to know of few of the Purdue Fort Wayne students who will be helping out, and tell us your concerns.
Many of you may already know Joanna Bell, but do you know her in this role? Maybe not. So, let’s introduce her to you a bit more so that when you encounter her in the community, you can trust that she is committed to your town. She shines as a bright light in our research project and we are grateful to have her on board.
Joanna was born and raised in Hartford City. She has lived all her life in a home her Dad purchased in 1955 until just recently. Joanna married a local fellow – you may know him as Ben – who is also from Hartford City. All of their four children were raised in the home her Dad bought when she was young. Joanna is Hartford City, through and through! Joanna has worked many jobs in her lifetime, but she has always lived in proximity to the scrapyard. Several family members and neighbors have experienced ALS and cancer, so she was particularly motivated to get involved. As Joanna says, “I kind of have a vested interest in this project!” We are grateful to have her on board.
Joanna has a granddaughter who is just over a year old and she is the light of their lives. Being a grandmother is so new and refreshing and awesome. Joanna and Ben have also started a whole new chapter in their life in their new home. This is one of the most amazing times in their lives together. They are learning new things about themselves despite having been married more than 21 years! It has been a crazy time, but it has also been good and they are looking forward to a bright future together. Joanna’s favorite color is lilac purple and her favorite food is steak and a baked potato. And, last but not least, Joanna is a dog person all the way (sorry cat lovers).
It has been a while since you have heard from us via this newsletter, but lots has been happening despite the pandemic disruptions. Things take time and we are in this for the long haul. We have several things to tell you. First of all, four professors who have been assisting us with the ongoing collaboration published what we have been doing in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Social Science. The complete article can be accessed here.
In Fall of 2019, we asked residents to write letters to the Governor and the Commissioner of Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to use the equipment at their disposal to do further testing of the air around HI&M. A total of 17 letters were sent to Governor Holcomb and Commissioner Pigott. The Commissioner at the Department of Environmental Management, Bruno L. Pigott, responded. The Office of Air Quality monitored the ambient air over a four-month period last summer using two intermittent samplers and a temporary weather station that were installed downwind from the facility (see photos):
Although the equipment was fairly close to the fence, it was a significant distance from the crushing area where the activity takes place which stirs up dust and fumes that are of concern (see map below).
The Office of Air Quality conducted a special monitoring study from May 2020 through August 2020. The IDEM Study identified concentrations of heavy metal pollutants and chromium VI in the air and compared them to benchmark levels for assessing the health risk posed by chemical exposure. The concentration levels did not exceed the 24-hour benchmarks identified in the sources that they used, and concentrations were consistent with other values collected across Indiana in a variety of monitoring programs. Although HI&M is releasing pollutants into the air, they are operating within their legally acceptable limits. The IDEM Report concluded that “the concentrations of the metals collected during the study are very low and do not rise to levels of concern.” The complete IDEM study of HI&M can be found here.
Dr. Sherrie Steiner, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Purdue Fort Wayne, studied the data from the IDEM study and came to some different conclusions. In her view, the way in which IDEM conducted their study does not permit a quality assessment of the possible health risks posed by HI&M business activities because there is insufficient information and data to control for wind direction, humidity and temperature, precipitation, business operations, and peak exposure events. For reasons such as these, she concluded that it was premature for IDEM to conclude from the May-August 2020 Study that there are no public health effects of concern from HI&M’s neighborhood operations. Although none of the samples exceed the benchmark limitations used by IDEM, that does not mean that the activities of HI&M are not negatively impacting public health. Mandated safety thresholds do not guarantee public health. In particulate matter, for example, we already know that there are health impacts below the thresholds that are used. Her complete response to the IDEM Report can be found here.
Hartford Iron and Metal’s lawyer was present for the April 2018 City Council meeting. During that meeting, it was stated that a committee would only be formed if relocation was “off the table.” However, that was not one of the limitations of forming the committee in the March 2018 City Council meeting. When discussing (or lack of discussing) relocation, no real explanation was given. All the information provided by Marc Shere, the attorney for Hartford Iron and Metal, about compliance dealt with storm water runoff.
However, according to IDEM’s report in May 2018, lead was detected “above its groundwater screening level.” IDEM stated that Hartford Iron and Metal needed to provide evidence that the level of lead detected was not due from their “facility’s activities.” Hartford Iron and Metal have yet to provide sufficient evidence showing that they are in compliance when it comes to lead levels in the ground water.