POLLUTION OF STREAMS IN INDIANA
Unless the pollution of streams by the strawboard mills is slopped the consequences to Indiana will be very serious, in some instances farmers cannot use the waters of the creeks, and are obliged to sink wells at great expense for the use of their household and for domestic purposes. In addition to that the soil is so saturated by seepage and infiltration that even the hardy blue grass is killed off,and for acre upon acre only the rankest weeds will grow, and the whole condition of things is pestilential. The central portion of the State from Noblesville and taking in the principal cities along White river to Carthage is conspicuous for the prevalence of this evil. At Noblesville the refuse from the strawboard mill is at present penned up in a series of ponds extending over 120 acres. From these there is no outlet to the river, from which the ponds are separated by a high levee. That leakage which cannot be estimated goes on through this gravel all the time is indisputable,and in any case the present arrangement cannot last more than about five years. How foul is the stuff thus penned up can be judged of from the fact that when one of these ponds burst a few years ago, the fish in the White river as far as Indianapolis were poisoned.
The While river is further defiled by the direct and daily dumping into it of all the rubbish from the immense strawboard plant at Anderson, where tons of raw material are worked up every day. The stream running into the river is about six feet wide and averages six inches in depth. At Muucie, also, is another huge strawboard mill, where the refuse is penned up, as at Noblesville in ten tanks, separated from the river by a high levee. Here, however, eight tiled drains and a board sluiceway allow of the filth being discharged (as is done constantly) into the river In a rapid stream some six inches in depth.
Six miles below Muucie is Yorktown,at the confluence of the White river and Buck creek, where is another big strawboard factory. Here file farmers and the owners of riparian rights made it so hot for the strawboard people by means of suits and injunctions, that the latter agreed to hold back the refuse in ponds, running it from one to the other, on the theory that seepage and evaporation in one pond would affect the general accumulation in the other. This arrangement, however, can be only temporary. The Greenfield plant along the Brandywine was literally driven away by a series of suits and injunctions, and the Knightstown mill has been (it is said only temporarily) closed by the trust. At Carthage is the same arrangement as at Muucie, except that the refuse is transported over the stream in aqueducts for miles into the Blue rivetfar below the factory. The mass of filth here has roused the people of three counties, inasmuch as there is a periodical overflow and dumpage on the farmers’ fields. The fish have also been killed by thousands, and lie putrefying on the banks. The water is useless, even to bathe in, and stock have been poisoned by drinking it; thus the Blue river has been rendered useless for miles of its course by a refuse which is infinitely worse than sewage, and, unlike sewage, cannot be made useful for fertilizing purposes. It breeds mosquitoes by the hundreds of millions.
A State law, reproduced here, authorizes the board of health to issue permits to all kinds of factories to discharge their refuse tnto the streams at certain seasons or periods. On being attacked by the farmers for the passage of the law, the latter were told that the only way to bring the constitutionality of the law before the courts was the State board of health giving a permit to some establishment to discharge all of its refuse into a stream. This has been done in several cases, and farmers along White river and its tributaries were startled to learn not only that their streams were to be polluted, but that the pollution was actually to be authorized by regular permit from the State board of health. These permitB, it should be observed, are so drawn as to restrain the output—at least,seemingly. Thus, in the case of the pulp mills, the permit allows only a certain wash water to flow away, and it is supposed to be as pure as the creek which it enters. It must be freed from pulp by setting it in a pond. If the mill violates the permit it will be immediately revoked. But the permit is only a tantalizing mockery. The pulp mill neither can nor does purify its refuse by “ settling in a pond.’” The refuse is insoluble and incurable, and if it goes out at ail, it goes out as such. The pulp mills do not observe the conditions of the permit, but dump their refuse unpurified into the streams, so that, instead of the legislation abolishing such a nuisance, it actually authorizes its continuance, aDd while people are obliged to go into court to tight the constitutionality of this law, there is no stop put to the pollution of the streams. This the State board of health is apparently unable to do, although it believes the law to be unconstitutional. It know s of all those violations of the law just mentioned but holds that it would be impossible to fight them, unless the State board of health gives a permit to some establishment to discharge all its refuse into a stream. The permits contain the proviso that the refuse shall be purified and freed from pulp, by settling in a pond; and the waste poured into the stream has been thoroughly analysed (says the State board of health), and found tot to he polluting. If the mill violates the permit, it must be immediately revoked. The permit of the strawboard mill allows only the filtered liquid which has passed through the tile drains and through two feet of gravel laid on top of the tiles; and this after it has been settled by running through nine ponds. To the certain knowledge of the Slate board doctor the liquid from the drains is as pure as the river water above Mancie ” In neither instance has permission been given to discharge refuse into the streams We hoped, by giving a permit to discharge purified liquids, to induce the mills to stop their awful pollution by putting in purifying plants. If they have abused the privilege, that is another matter.” Where ignorance Is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise. But what if the ignorance is wilful?
THE ACT OF THE LEGISLATURE
referred toprohibits the “ discharge of waste refuse of manufacturing establishments into streams of water, conferring certain powers upon the State board of health in such cases, providing penalties for the violation thereof, and declares an emergency.” Its sections are as follows:
Section 1.-It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation, owning for operating any manufacturing establishment, to discharge or permit to be discharged into any stream of water any waste water or refuse from said factory, of such character as to pollute said stream, except by and in pursuance to written permission so to do, first obtained from the State board of health, as hereinafter provided. Section 2.—Whenever any person, firm or corporation, owning or operating a manufacturing establishment, shall file with the secretary of the State board of health a verified application in writing, asking permission to be allowed to discharge into any stream any waste water or refuse from such establishment, and showing therein that the water of said stream is at such a stage as that said refuse or waste water maybe safely discharged into such stream without any injury to the public, it shall be the duty of such board to inspect the said stream at or below the point of such proposed discharge, and if It is found that such refuse and waste water may be safely discharged therein without Injury as aforesaid, the said board may, in Its discretion, grant and Issue a written permit allowing such discharge Into said stream for a time to be limited therein, which permit shall be void and of no effect after the time so fixed, and may be revoked by said board at any time. The holder of any such permit, regularly Issued by such board, shall be authorized to discharge any such refuse or waste water into such stream during the time fixed and limited In such permit, and shall not be liable therefor in any suit at law or In equity; provided, that nothing herein contained shall prevent any person specially damaged by any such discharges from recovering the amount of special damages so sustained In an action at law brought for such purpose. Section 3. -Any person, firm, or corporation violating any of the provisions of this act shall be lined in any sum not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than five hundred dollars. Section 9.—Whereas, an emergency exists for the immediate taking effect, of this act, the same shall be in force from and after its passage.