NANFA-- AP story: Fish kill surfaces in Indiana race

Shireen Gonzaga (
Wed, 19 Jan 2000 09:47:18 -0800 (PST)

World Wire News
Fish kill surfaces in Indiana race
Wednesday, January 19, 2000

By Associated Press

A massive fish kill on a polluted Indiana river
couldn't have
happened at a better time for opponents of
Democratic Gov.
Frank O'Bannon.

While state and federal officials conduct a criminal
investigation into the kill, which already numbers
in the
hundreds of thousands, opponents of the governor are
fingers at his administration as he gears up for a
re-election bid.

More than 85 tons of dead fish have piled up along a
stretch of the White River since it was poisoned
five weeks ago
by what investigators suspect was an industrial
polishing agent
used at an auto parts plant.

Environmentalists have complained that the state
too slowly and failed to keep the public informed.
The state
said it acted on the information it had, though the
Department of Environmental Management conceded the
state should have responded sooner.

The controversy is surfacing in Indiana's governor's

Republicans have accused O'Bannon's administration
bungling the state's response to the fish kill.

In his 1996 campaign, O'Bannon used TV commercials
attack his GOP opponent, former Indianapolis Mayor
Goldsmith, over a sewage release in the city that
500,000 fish in the White River.

This time around, John Price, an Indianapolis lawyer
the GOP nomination for governor, stood by dead fish
on the
riverbank and filmed his own commercial, saying he
wants to
protect Indiana's rivers. He has said he would have
the fish kill better than O'Bannon.

O'Bannon accused the GOP of playing politics. During
State of the State address last week, he proposed
doubling the
fines for criminal environmental violations.

The catfish, bass, sunfish and other species died
Anderson and Indianapolis along the river, which
supplies 60
percent of the drinking water to 800,000 people in
and around

"It is like someone dropped a nuclear bomb," said
McDermott, who lives near the river. "The fish had
jumped 6
or 7 feet onto the shore. It was like they were
jumping out of
the water to try and get away from whatever it is."

State environmental officials believe the deaths
began when
sodium dimethyldithiocarbamate, or DMDK, entered
Anderson's wastewater treatment plant in
and killed microbes needed to break down ammonia
from raw

Then, environmental officials said, the high levels
ammonia and carbon disulfide, a byproduct of DMDK,
released into the river. Both chemicals are
dangerous to
aquatic life; the state said the contamination never
posed a
threat to people.

Ten industrial companies in Anderson filter their
through the treatment plant. Only one - Guide Corp.,
makes auto parts - uses DMDK, according to the
of Environmental Management.

Exactly how the DMDK got into the water is unclear.
Guide is
supposed to pretreat its waste before releasing it
to the city
treatment plant, environmental officials said.

Guide has denied responsibility for the

Even if Guide is not responsible, it could be fined
up to $50,000
for twice refusing to allow state environmental
inside its plant. On Jan. 12, state officials
obtained a search
warrant and went inside to question employees and

Guide spokesman Raquel Bahamonde said the company
simply wants to "ensure it can reasonably and
comply with the department's continued requests for
information without disrupting its business."

Guide and the state aren't the only ones under fire.
Anderson wastewater treatment plant was criticized
allowing a week to pass before reporting elevated
levels of
ammonia in discharge material.

For now, the Indianapolis Water Co. is increasing
treatment and is drawing more of its water from
other sources
as a precaution.

The Department of Natural Resources said it is too
soon to say
how long it will take the river to recover.

"You cannot take away in a week what took so many
years for
nature to place there and expect that things will
miraculously," spokesman Stephen Sellers said.
Copyright 2000, Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

Shireen Gonzaga
Baltimore, MD
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