NANFA-- Indiana fish kill -notes from a hydrogeologist
Thu, 30 Dec 1999 14:26:33 EST

I received permission to post the following notes I received privately from a
hydrogeologist with USGS who is also very involved with conservation.

A couple of personal observations from myself I would appreciate comment on:
in situations like this, there is probably a lot of public and media pressure
for quick answers. And quick and accurate answers may be tough to come by.
It will be interesting to see who the real culprit is and if they do not go
through several suspects before finding the real one.

Links to this morning's Indianapolis Star newspaper article are not yet
available. I just checked the Indiana Department of Enivornmental
Management's (IDEM) wesite and there is no news release concerning this event.

Chuck Church
Indianapolis, Indiana USA

received 12/28/99:

Up to 50 miles of the river are now effected by the chemical
contaminates which entered the river at/near Andersn.

The Hoosier Sierra Club has a quote from the Super. at the Anderson
sewage treatment plant, which states he originally thought the chemical
was an ammonia like chemical. Now he states it is probably a carbamide
herbicide, and if this is the case, they know the source.

More later...

received 12/29/99

The chemical toxin is still unknown. Early on, the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management (IDEM) thought the problam was minor, and only
affected a small portion of the White River near the Anderson Sewage
Treatment Plant. But when the problem approached Indianapolis, it became
obvious this was major fishkill.

Now that everyone is on top of the problem, IDEM can not find a qualified
laboratory (all are closed for holidays) to run the time consuming
analysis. I have contacted IDEM, but no one knows anything about the
chemistry, so it is hard to comment. Even after the chemical is known,
there is little anyone can do to remove it from the river. Unfortunately
dilution is the solution to this problem, and there is no rain in the
forcast. Once the chemical is identified, the only thing different will be
IDEM's pursuit of the contaminator with fines. This doesn't help the dead
and dying raparian animals (which might include us)

As for the hydrogeology of the river, the White River is a gaining stream.
That means the river receives groundwater, and the flow increases
throughout the length of the stream. Therefore private domestic wells
along the river will not be effected, however large production wells near
the river may receive a portion of their supply from river discharge.

received 12/30/99

Sure you can post the info. Actually I have a bit more than I told you
Late Wednesday afternoon, I contacted Frank Holzer at IDEM. He told me the
problem with the analysis for the original chemical contaminate is the
chemical breaks down into other chemical, which are the chemicals detected.

IDEM has found elevated levels of Ammonia and Carbon Disulfide in the White
River downstream of the Anderson Sewage Treatment facility. These
chemicals are not present upstream of the facility. Ammonia levels are
reported to be 1.7 ppm (parts per million), while Carbon Disulfide levels
are reported to be 1 to 2 ppm. These levels of chemical contamination are
NOT toxic. So it is still unknown if these chemicals were the cause of the
fish kill.

The chemical Disodium Ethylene Bisdithopcarbomate is thought to be the
chemical that has klled the fish. This chemical breaks down into Carbon
Disulfide after it is exposed to the environment. For the record, Disodium
Ethylene Bisdithopcarbomate is a herbicide or fungecide with strong
oxidizing effects which Anderson Guidelamp uses as a final polisher to
remove metals from their waste water stream. For the most part, Disodium
Ethylene Bisdithopcarbomate has not been used as a herbicide/fungecide
since the 1970's, and is rarely used today.

Also, the guidelamp waste water goes to the Anderson Sewage Treatment
facility for a final treatment. It is reported the Anderson Sewage
Treatment faciliity was knocked offline by this same toxic chemical spill.
Sewage treatment is accompolished by using naturally occurring bugs in the
waste to clean te water. This is accompolished by holding the wastes in
aerated retention channels. The water is first cleaned of all large solids
(primary treatment). Then the water is aerated via spraying into the air,
recollected and sent to the outdoor treatment ponds. Here the water is
channeled through a series of channels where natural occurring microbes
break down the bad chemicals (secondary treatment). From there some
treatment facilities have tertiary treatment, some do not. Tertiarry
treatment isusually accompolished by adding chlorine, or ozone, or special
oxidizing chemicals (Disodium Ethylene Bisdithopcarbomate is one). However
the Anderson facility does not use Disodium Ethylene Bisdithopcarbomate.

Anyway, to finish the story. Anderson's treatment plant's microbial
process (secondary treatment) was stopped, when an unknown chemical entered
the facilities intakes. This could explain the ammonia levels. Downstream
of Indianapolis' Sewage Treatment Facilites, ammonia has ranged from less
than 0.1 to 8.8 ppm, with a median value of 2.0 (pre 1982). New advanced
treatment has lowered the ammonia to a median value of 0.24 ppm from 1982
through 1986. Advanced treatment during the 1982-86 period was ozonation.
After Mayor Goldsmith privatized the Indianapolis Water Treatment
facilities in the early 1990's, the ozone was replaced by the cheaper
chlorine, and ammonia levels rose.

For further information the contacts at IDEM (for offical information
releases) contact Phil Schimmerhorn at 317-232-8560 or Lakenya Johnson at

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