EPA report: Metallic dust issue lingered into the spring

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SOUTH BELOIT - The Winnebago Foundry was still working to improve its dust collection system in March of this year after complaints were forwarded to the Environmental Protection Agency about orange particulate settling on vehicles in the area.

Inspectors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspected the Winnebago Foundry in South Beloit on March 15 after complaints first were received by the Illinois EPA in February. The inspection lasted about two hours.

According to an inspection report from the USEPA, the foundry had upgraded its dust collector about a year earlier, following complaints the company received about orange particulates settling on vehicles parked in the area.

"However, the baghouse is not performing to their expectations and they are currently exploring upgrading the dust collector a second time to sufficiently remove the nuisance particulates," the report dated May 10 states.

Travelers Insurance, the insurance company for the foundry, contracted with a company to clean and detail vehicles affected by the ferrous oxide dust. Recon Linx, an auto detailing business, set up a tent and cleaning station in the parking lot at Beloit City Hall. Beloit Police Department squad cars had been impacted, along with private vehicles at the government lot.

Recon Linx packed up its tent and equipment Tuesday and left the parking lot after cleaning cars since early April.

Despite finding particulates on city-owned vehicles and other private vehicles in the municipal lot, city officials did not notify other businesses and organizations in the downtown area of the possible contamination.

When asked why earlier this week, the city's public information officer, Sarah Millard, told the Beloit Daily News, "The burden to notify the area businesses would not be on the city. The only reason the city is involved is due to the rusty dust that was found on the police department squad cars. The city filed a claim on behalf of the city-owned vehicles. Anyone, including city employees, who believe their vehicle may have been impacted by this would need to file a claim directly with the foundry and/or its insurance provider."

The EPA report said the foundry was working with a consultant to upgrade its baghouse, which filters the dust. The report went on to say the foundry in the meantime was replacing its dust collector filters more often and emptying the bucket containing the baghouse exit particulate more often.

Josh Singer of the U.S. EPA Region 5 Office said EPA officials are working with the company to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and the agency will continue to monitor the company's efforts to address the dust issue.

Winnebago Foundry melts approximately 10 tons of iron per day, according to the EPA report. It uses two one-ton electric induction furnaces that were installed around 1984.

When Travelers Insurance was contacted and asked if people should have been notified, and what people can do if they believe their vehicles have been impacted, the company issued the following statement:

"As soon as we became aware of the situation, we began taking steps to help people with vehicles that have been affected. We immediately contracted with a vendor, Recon Linx, that cleaned the residue from nearly 200 vehicles and none of them will have permanent damage to their paint jobs from this. Anyone who believes they have been affected can call Travelers at 630-961-8961, and we will review their claim accordingly."

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