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 Carthage May Avoid Spill Liability

April 22, 2009 - The town of Carthage appears to be off the hook for liability in connection with a chlorine spill that occurred last summer.

In late 2008, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued a notice of violation regarding a chlorine spill that happened July 16 while a contractor was working on the town's water improvement project. In that notice and a proposed agreed order that accompanied it, IDEM sought to hold the town and the contractor jointly and severally responsible for a civil penalty of $11,250, plus $113.24 for damages to natural resources.

However, in a revised proposed agreed order issued April 9, IDEM has removed the town as a co-respondent in the case and said it will dismiss the notice of violation against the town. Instead, the agency wants the contractor, Dave O'Mara Contractor, Inc., of North Vernon, held solely responsible for the spill, although the $11,250 civil penalty has been reduced to $9,000.

O'Mara was one of three contractors hired to work on Carthage's water improvement project. The chlorine spill occurred when workers for O'Mara were using chlorine to disinfect new water lines they were installing. According to IDEM, the chlorinated water was purged from the water lines into two storm drains that flow into a local creek that feeds the Big Blue River, resulting in a small fish kill. The agency said this violated at least four of the state's environmental management and water pollution laws.

According to the new agreed order, IDEM's decision to dismiss the town from this action came as the result of an agreement reached between the town and O'Mara. The agency said that O'Mara had agreed to indemnify Carthage and hold the town harmless for the spill.

In addition to the $9,113.24 it has been asked to pay within 45 days, IDEM also wants O'Mara to develop and submit within 30 days a spill response plan (SRP) outlining how any future chlorine discharges will be handled. Once IDEM approves the SRP, the agency said it will become part of the agreed order and must be implemented by O'Mara.

If O'Mara fails to submit its SRP on time, IDEM can assess a $500 penalty for each week it's late, and the contractor will be charged interest if the $9,113.24 is not paid within 45 days. The new agreed order says IDEM will issue a notice of dismissal letter to the town once O'Mara pays the agency and submits an SRP that is approved.


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