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July 10, 2013

KITCHELL: Citizen-driven issues make good stories

It’s been 25 years ago this month since headlines in Logansport and other area communities heralded the kind of events that don’t happen very often – and wouldn’t have happened had people not become involved.

Ironically, both stories might be filed under the heading “Four County.” One of those involved Four County Counseling Center, based in Logansport. The other involved the former Four County Landfill near Delong in Fulton County. Neither story fell on a typical reporter beat, but both became stories that led to media coverage.

The Four County Landfill closure was huge in that the fledgling Indiana Department of Environmental Management refused to issue an operating permit for the hazardous waste landfill. It was a triumph for members of Supporters To Oppose Pollution (STOP), a nonpartisan group of rural residents around the landfill who were concerned about their drinking water, property values and general health of humans and livestock. The landfill, located near the banks of the Tippecanoe River, has been closed ever since. Wells near the landfill have been monitored. The years since its closure spawned update hearings, sometimes contentious public meetings, that updated residents on the long-term clean-up for the site and the state’s funding paid in part by potentially responsible parties or PRPs.

Had IDEM been in existence when the landfill opened, it may never have been allowed to open by the state, but that’s 20/20 hindsight. The landfill remains a barren portion of Fulton County along Ind. 17 that is a black hole of land use. It might look much more barren than it does today had residents not acted when they did, and with the resolve that brought an attorney who had represented residents of Love Canal, N.Y., to the Midwest, to represent STOP in a U.S. District Court case in South Bend.

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