By AUSTIN MONTGOMERY
BELOIT — Owners of the Winnebago Foundry in South Beloit say they have taken measures to mitigate the emission of metal dust particles that settled on City of Beloit owned vehicles, and they hope to have a permanent solution in place soon.
The foundry was embroiled in the situation after a discharge of iron dust particles was noticed on City of Beloit Police Department vehicles and at businesses in the vicinity of the foundry in April of 2017.
The discharge of particles was caused by a faulty filtration system at the foundry, something that was recorded in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report.
Roscoe-based Stateline Foundry acquired Winnebago Foundry in April of this year, and the new owner said the company is working with Travelers Insurance, the company tasked with handling City of Beloit and various claims related to the dust discharge.
According to Stateline Foundry President Steve Holdeman, the company is in the midst of a temporary remediation effort ahead of the replacement of the current filtration system following an equipment purchase.
Employees at the Winnebago Foundry are actively replacing filter cartridges regularly and checking “to ensure they are doing their job,” Holdeman said.
“We’ve taken preventative measures to curtail the leakage as to what was the problem all along,” Holdeman said.
Holdeman added a replacement filtration system would be purchased and implemented, a process that he estimated would take three weeks to put in place.
He added Stateline Foundry was aware of the discharge of iron dust issues from Winnebago Foundry at the time of the company’s acquisition, but declined to comment on the company’s knowledge as to the extent of the problem.
According to the EPA report issued May 10, inspections of the foundry took place in March after complaints were first filed with the Illinois EPA in February.
Although the details of the final City of Beloit claim were not made public, a Beloit Daily News records request showed the city had quoted an estimated repair cost of $16,285 for vehicle repairs.
The city was notified of the iron dust discharge in April of 2017 and city risk management staff coordinated claims for 46 city-owned vehicles, while assisting with 20 individual city employee vehicle claims with Travelers Insurance, according to email records. Officials contacted by Travelers Insurance to conduct auto detailing on the vehicles told the Beloit Daily News on May 14 the private company, Texas-based ReconLinx had cleaned around 190 vehicles from the city and surrounding
The city notified all municipal staff in City Hall that use the parking lot of the issue, but did not notify any nearby businesses of the environmental fallout from the foundry.
According to a police department maintenance staff member in an email sent to city risk manager David Niedfeldt, the longtime staffer said of the iron dust, “It’s always on our cars. It has been on our cars since I started in 2010.”
Travelers inspected vehicles on Aug. 15, 2017 and met with the foundry to review operations. In emails, city staff noted “particularly thick emissions for about 10 minutes” on Oct. 11, 2017.
City staff also bemoaned the lengthy period of time between filing claims and the vehicles being repaired with a city maintenance staff member noting “it would appear that it is getting worse” on Jan. 28.
Niedfeldt noted that he was “very frustrated” about the time it took to sort out the city’s claim.
Ahead of Stateline Foundry acquiring the South Beloit location, Niedfeldt said he was told by Travelers Insurance that the insurance company was bogged down by the foundry’s slow response to the problem, even noting that the insurance company “could raise the insurance premiums on the foundry or drop them as the insurer if they do not correct the issue,” according to email records.
The city also had a hard time finding a company in the area able to clean the vehicles in the claim until locating ReconLinx to conduct the vehicle detailing up to May 15. Employees of Beloit Daily News, Edward Jones, Subway Sandwiches and Security Finance are among those who have made