Alloy Casting Dusting Its Neighbors

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

What would you do if your neighborhood suddenly came under attack not by terrorists or by crime, but by air so noxious that it damaged your property and endangered your health? While most of us will hopefully never have to confront this question, residents in a west Champaign neighborhood have had to look to each other for an answer.
For most of the time that Dana Ehrhart and his family have lived in their west Champaign neighborhood, the nearby Alloy Casting and Engineering Company has gotten along with its neighbors. But when Alloy changed its manufacturing processes, residents around the plant began to notice a metallic taste in the air, extremely loud noises and an abundance of tiny orange spots covering cars, houses, and other visible surfaces in the area. While such damage to property has been troubling in itself, residents have been doubly concerned about the dangers posed by invisible dust in the air and on the ground. Joyce Haste, who lives near the Alloy plant, wonders, “How much of this dust do you kick up in your face when you mow the lawn?”
In early 2000, the problem became so severe that Alloy’s neighbors could take it no more. They arranged a meeting with company and expressed their concerns over their health and damage to their property. Alloy denied any responsibility and did nothing to correct the problem. Residents then began calling and complaining to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), which eventually turned the case over to the Attorney General’s office. Last May the Attorney General filed a three-point case against Alloy to the Illinois Pollution Control Board for fugitive dust emissions, noise violations, and for running equipment without the proper permits.
In November the Attorney General’s office filed a motion to amend the complaint against Alloy, with additional charges including unlawful disposal of hazardous waste; failure to meet hazardous waste permitting, reporting, training, and operating requirements; water pollution (unpermitted discharge); and operating without an industrial storm water permit. The amendment was spawned after tests revealed that samples taken from the dust collection bags at the plant exceeded regulatory limits for lead and selenium. High levels of lead can cause serious neurological damage, leading to learning disabilities in children.
While in negotiations with the Attorney General’s office, Alloy Casting continues to publicly deny all liability, and has been trying to bolster its public image by purchasing full-page ads in the News-Gazette which portray Alloy as an exemplary neighbor. The company claims there is no proof that the dust came from the plant, pointing instead to construction and demolition on the former site of a Chinese restaurant on Mattis Avenue, and to the Illinois Concrete Company. Both of these sites, however, lie east of the neighborhood, while prevailing winds blow to the east. Alloy’s explanation also defies logic in that construction and concrete may create dust, but certainly not a hot, metallic dust capable of melting into cars and other metal objects.
Despite Alloy’s denials, the neighborhood is not backing down. Residents have recently hired a lawyer and are filing a lawsuit against the company to pay for the property damage and for any health problems related to the dust. John McMahon, attorney for the residents, says “Alloy can not get away with damaging property and possibly people’s health.”
On December 21st, a hearing was held to determine the validity of a motion to dismiss the personal injury claim the residents have filed against Alloy. The judged dismissed the motion, and for now the residents retain the chance to argue the personal injury claim during trial. Meanwhile, Alloy continues to pursue its own options for dismissing the claim.
Along with taking their complaint to the Illinois Pollution Control Board and to civil court, the residents have also sent a signed petition directly to Alloy’s largest customer, General Motors, in order to inform the company of the damages they’ve suffered. “Considering the number of houses in the area, 344 signatures is a great response,” says Dana Ehrhart, one of many residents who hope to set up a dialogue with GM aimed at cleaning up Alloy’s practices.
Still, many residents are skeptical that General Motors will take action against Alloy, given that GM has invested over $14,000,000 to restructure the plant and to pay down Alloy’s debt. As of late January 2002, the residents have not received a response from GM, and neither the Attorney General’s case nor the resident’s lawsuit has been resolved. Dana and his neighbors continue to wait patiently.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.