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Permit dispute surrounds wastewater discharge at Wolf Lake-adjacent business

By PAUL CZAPKOWICZ

HAMMOND, Ind. (February 14, 2022) – A permit that allows Wolf Lake Terminals to discharge non-process wastewater from a petroleum products terminal into Wolf Lake was put on hold in early January when the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication (OEA) ruled that certain parts of the permitting process were not followed properly.

Objection to Wolf Lake Terminals

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) is responsible for issuing the permit to Wolf Lake Terminals, a liquid storage facility located in Hammond.

The permit must be applied for every five years, and IDEM had given authorization for it in February 2022.

But attorney David Dabertin, of Hammond, filed an objection to the permit and a ruling issued by the OEA on January 9, 2023, and said proper notice was not sent to all parties or entities affected by the permit and that IDEM had waived a $50 permit application fee that is a requirement.

The ruling requires Wolf Lake Terminals to resubmit a Notice of Intent to demonstrate its intent to comply with the 2020 Master General Permit that IDEM had granted.

Discharge and Wolf Lake

Dabertin said that while Wolf Lake Terminals is located in Hammond, the discharge actually goes into Illinois.

“Everything that could drip or fall out of any of those tanks is what we’re concerned about,” Dabertin said. “They do test it, but we don’t think that they test enough and my position is they shouldn’t be discharging at all. They could discharge to the sanitary district or hold the water on their site.”

“Non-process wastewater” refers to utility wastewaters such as water treatment residuals, boiler blowdown, or air pollution control wastewater — not water that has come into direct contact with production materials.

Dabertin said Wolf Lake has been “abused over the years” and people should stand up and protect it.

“Discharging contaminants of any kind is really not what this lake should be used for,” he said.

Michael Boos is executive director for the Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative (AWLI), a bi-state, not-for-profit organization and land trust.

“Our mission is to protect and enhance the Wolf Lake watershed and we’ve been doing that for more than 20 years,” Boos said.

Boos views the permit delay as at least a temporary victory.

Boos said Wolf Lake Terminals is on the Indiana-Illinois state line but that the primary party affected by the discharge is the William W. Powers State Recreation Area on the Illinois side.

“Even though this isn’t a large discharge, Wolf Lake is fairly small compared to, like, Lake Michigan, so I think any kind of discharge … causes serious harm to the water, to the fish, to plants, to the environment. And it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s other solutions.”

IDEM letter to resume

IDEM emailed a response following the OEA ruling and said IDEM did not waive permitting fees or waive submission of permitting items for Wolf Lake Terminals.

The IDEM response said OEA found fault with three minor procedural items and that IDEM believes it would be more efficient for Wolf Lake Terminals to update and resubmit the items to IDEM to meet the OEA request than to appeal the order.

IDEM sent a letter dated February 9, 2023, to Wolf Lake Terminals that said existing coverage under the 2015 General Permit will be extended if Wolf Lake Terminals files a new Notice of Intent within 90 days of the date of the February 9 notice.

The letter told Wolf Lake Terminals that it should continue operating under terms and conditions of the expired permit until notice of coverage under the 2020 permit is issued.

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Paul Czapkowicz
Paul Czapkowicz
Paul Czapkowicz has served as a correspondent for the Northwest Indiana Times, so he is familiar with local politics, local business, and local goings-on in general. His training as a teacher gives him an innate sense of how to present facts in an organized and meaningful way, so readers gain understanding of complex subjects.