Category Archives: Green

Protect the Water of Dearborn County

The Sun Sets on Dearborn Co
A disturbing situation plays out in one community after another. A water supply is contaminated. A community is kept in the dark while a widespread health crisis emerges. Scientists establish an undeniable link, but the community is forced to fight with the very officials entrusted with their protection. Sometimes the officials face justice, but the community is always devastated; courts can’t cure cancer or reverse nerve damage.

The fate of such communities depends on outside intervention – usually a news agency with a sphere of influence larger than the local government. Even so, resolving a water crisis can take a decade. Imagine your entire childhood being overshadowed by suspicious illnesses and fears about loved ones. And now imagine that you could prevent everything. Imagine that you could identify the threat to the community before it poisoned its first victim. Imagine that you have the knowledge and ability to devise a solution that protects everyone from harm, and even revitalizes the area with an economic surge of hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Would you speak up?

Imagine that you tell your local leaders, who assure you they’re taking action, but secretly aren’t. What else can you do? Imagine that you go to the news and discover that no one will dare to speak. Imagine that in your frustration you somehow scream loudly enough that your message reaches the public anyway – only to find that now… now you’ve made the officials angry.

Suddenly the news is willing to speak, but the article doesn’t contain your evidence & information. It doesn’t mention your potential to benefit the community. It contains only fabrications about you and those working with you.

So imagine that all your efforts to help your community are undermined. You have been cast as an enemy of the very people you’re trying to protect. You are facing an enemy much larger than yourself. The crooked businessmen sit on the board of a bank holding, while you have no resources with which to fight. Are you beaten or do you just have nothing left to lose? I don’t have to imagine what my answer would be – this is my reality.

Never forget that people exist in every community with the ability to lie to your face so convincingly that you love them for it. Never forget that there are people who would deplete the community coffers for their own personal bag of gold. The snake may have a silver tongue, but he is venomous all the same.

To learn more about how you can help, click here for more details.

Water Protection

The goal of this page is to bring all of the information into one place. This story began when the fly ash proposal was made public, and these events ran silently parallel to what was visible in the public eye.

When this began, very little information was available, and none of it was about the Tanners Creek site specifically. As a scientist, I place a high value on information. I believed that with better information, our leaders and the public could make better decisions. Looking back, I feel embarrassed to admit that ever I thought things could be that simple.

But I used my skills to assemble information from every source I could find. I compiled information from IDEM, from our library’s local history office, from local utilities, from engineering firms and research publications, from the DNR and the county surveyor, and even from citizens who had been involved first-hand.

The information began to coalesce into a bigger picture. It showed that the landfill holding the public’s attention was the least concerning section of the property. It was also where I discovered the first of this company’s lies. Everyone knew this company had struck a deal to bring in coal ash from Dayton Power and Light for $7.5m. But the truth about that deal was hidden deep within thousands of pages of documents filed with the state.

That deal was arranged immediately after falsely assuring IDEM that they had no intentions to bring in waste from off-site. Then, they quietly filed for an insignificant modification. It was a dark gamble that would have considerably harmed and undermined the community, had it succeeded. Insignificant modifications aren’t usually scrutinized, and gain automatic approval after 30 days unless IDEM objects. Fortunately for our community, IDEM did object – although they didn’t notice the deception.

And so Tanners Creek Development, LLC was required to submit proper paperwork for the proposal, which included the notice that raised in the public’s attention to the matter. It also included a document called a Good Character Disclosure Statement, which would lay the foundation for the entire controversy to come.

Propelled by the discovery of one lie, I decided to investigate this company. Who was Tanners Creek Development, LLC, and where did they come from? That answer would turn out to be incredibly complex and elusive. Due to the Roberts Brothers’ practice of using disposable LLCs as the front company for each project, we still don’t understand the full extent of their deception and reckless disregard for public safety.

Alarming press coverage and records of violations could be found surrounding each LLC that I investigated. In North Carolina, they lied to investigators about the incompatible types of hazardous waste they were illegally concealing in semi trailers. They caused a portion of Grand Rapids to be evacuated when the state discovered toxic gas levels nearly 30,000 times above acceptable limits. Marysville has been mired in lawsuits for years over their failure to deliver on their redevelopment promises, scaring away any potential buyers. The list goes on and on. And none of this information had been included in the Character Statement. They had lied numerous times on a document in an official proceeding with a regulatory agency. Not only is that opposite of good character, its perjury.

Although a dark cloud surrounded every site they had touched, it never cast a shadow over the central corporations. The press coverage was always limited to the LLC itself. No one had ever made the connection, and the negative consequences were always discovered after the fact. No one had ever been in a position to be proactive – to protect their community before the damage was done.

I had never met our community leaders before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I felt obligated to act, so I reached out to our community leaders. I quickly arranged a meeting with Shane McHenry myself, and obtained a professional reference urging Mayor Kelly Mollaun to hear this information. Despite this (and contrary to state law), Mayor Mollaun declined to meet and ignored all future correspondence.

When I met with Shane McHenry, I was assured that the information would be delivered to the state. He also urged me not to disclose the information about the company, claiming that the “investigation” would be harmed. It would be over two months before the community would learn that Shane had lied, repeatedly;  that the information was never delivered to the state, and that no investigation had ever taken place.

A commissioner’s meeting was scheduled for the next day and the fly ash ordinance was on the ballot. I knew I couldn’t be placed on the agenda with so little notice, so I prepared a document that summarized the concerns and set the stage for further discussion.

I urged caution, explaining that the text of the ordinance potentially exposed the county to litigation, and recommended extra time for revision. And I also explained that while the public’s concern was warranted, the most significant threats had not yet been disclosed.

Tamara Taylor, editor of the Bright Beacon, met with me for over three hours to discuss the additional information I had referenced. I was asked to write an article before the looming deadline, and I frantically obliged.

Meanwhile, members of community continued to express growing concern about the lack of information being provided. Citizens asked why our community leaders weren’t providing answers. In response, I organized a public information meeting with the official support of Shane McHenry. He requested that I also secure the attendance of Randy Turner and Olin Clawson, both of whom agreed to attend.

But then the phone rang. It was Tamara from the Beacon. She had shared my article with the county commissioners, and they instructed her not to publish the story because “the public wasn’t ready for this information”. The next day, I was informed that the public information meeting was also cancelled, because Shane McHenry didn’t think anyone would attend and the rest of the commissioners didn’t want to commit the resources.

I offered to present before SIRPA as a compromise because the information was still important for local decision-makers. I explained that the port board consisted of most local officials, and that a meeting was scheduled for the following week. Shane said he wouldn’t object if I could get on the agenda, but that I would need to meet with the board members from the public sector in advance. That was a long list, and there was less than a week before the meeting, but I succeeded.

Mayor Alan Weiss: Listened patiently, summary comment was: “It sounds like Lawrenceburg needs to act.” Insisted he would relay the information to Al Abdon himself.

Terri Randall: Understood the value of the information and attempted to facilitate meetings and discussions. Sincerely interested in the potential involvement of another fact-oriented individual in local issues. Stated “You probably know more about this site than anyone in the state. An investigation of this depth would have cost us at least $30,000.”

Bryan Messmore: Thoroughly understood the challenges facing infrastructure development at the site. Was understandably concerned about open conflict with a large property developer, but reacted responsibly and attempted to arrange a meeting with Mayor Mollaun.

Mayor Kelly Mollaun: Again refused to meet / respond. When encountered by chance in public, stated that he had taken my evidence to IDEM, who decided not to do anything more. This was suspected to be a lie at the time because he was not in possession of my evidence, and this was confirmed to be a lie at the June 5th meeting by IDEM themselves.

Guinevere Emery: Very professional and asked very good, tough questions. Thanked me for my involvement.

Mayor Donnie Hastings: Was thoroughly intrigued by the information and content, and placed me on the meeting agenda.

The Aurora & LMS (not LMU) Wellhead Protection Meeting also took place during this time. The engineering consultant said it was one of the best he had ever seen. I was able to supplement their existing groundwater data and provide the Aurora city attorney with information he had sought for a month. Again I was thanked for my involvement by all attendees.

At the SIRPA meeting, I explained circumstances surrounding the entire site, including the problems at each ash impoundment. I presented monitoring well data which showed the threat of future contamination. I also explained the old indemnity agreements and modern regulations that would let the community correct them without spending a dime. And I also explained that by cleaning up the old ash area, the community would earn hundreds of millions of dollars and have more space available for redevelopment. I handed them a proposal where everyone wins – the threat of contamination was irrelevant, that just accelerated the available timeline.

Everyone, including Shane McHenry, thanked me for my information, and expressed their appreciation. Mayor Hastings assigned Andy Baudendistel (the SIRPA/county attorney) to act as the primary point of contact, hedging that they may not want to act on the information.

But the concerns were about to take on an entirely new tone. Immediately after that talk, former AEP employees began to reach out. Everyone who witnessed the transition had the same message: This redevelopment company was bad news. That sentiment was unanimous. Some knew of unreported spills. Some knew of cut corners. Some knew of public safety violations and fire hazards. But everyone knew that this company was willing to stoop to any level to get what it wanted. Unfortunately, I never predicted that our local government was the first well this company poisoned.

I attempted to inform Shane McHenry of the allegations. “Thanks for passing it on.” But as before, there was no investigation. So I consulted an attorney and brushed up on what I legally could and couldn’t do, and armed myself with loopholes and workarounds involving high powered optics and aerial drones. I conducted the best investigation I could within the law as a private citizen. And again I returned to Shane McHenry and said this is serious… but I would never receive another response. The election had ended (and with it, his responsibility as a law enforcement officer apparently).

So again I reached out to the two attorneys. I understood that these were part time positions, and that I would only see action if I did all of the work for them up front and served it up on a silver platter. But even this was not enough.

I followed up once a week, explaining each time that the urgency level had risen dramatically. I explained activities taking place at that property were criminal and constituted a major threat to the public. Despite this, I seemed to be trapped in a twisted game of keep-away where no one wanted to be in possession of the information necessary to protect the community.

It was now clear that there was no investigation to protect, so I broke my silence and took the information public. I first spoke in Dillsboro, explaining all of the information and the officials’ inaction. This first video was removed from Facebook due to erroneous “report flooding” coordinated by Pam Carter-Rigaci. Shorter digests of the information were put out over the following week while the officials refused to address the public’s concerns.

I also went to Eagle and presented Mike Perleberg with the all of the evidence about this company. After jotting down a few notes, he said he wasn’t sure they would run a story. After seeing no action or follow-up the following week, I fumed on social media about the local media’s refusal to cover a topic so important to public safety – to surprising enthusiasm. Mike Perleberg finally conducted an actual interview after his excuses fell flat.

Fox 19 interviewed us, and within minutes of airing the story, Mayor Mollaun began desperately begging for a meeting (after refusing to meet for over two months). They intimidated the news station with legal threats and demands. Without a scientific credential between them, they ran disparaging Facebook ads. Concerned citizens take note – this is how the City of Lawrenceburg rewards those who stand up for the community.

Mayor Mollaun, Andy Baudendistel, and Shane McHenry issued a public statement in which they lied about our actions; lied about the last inspection’s findings; and demonstrated their failure to comprehend the matter by citing irrelevant data from the wrong wells.

By the following morning, it was clear why Mayor Mollaun had refused to meet. Quite literally overnight, the mayor threw in with the very property developers poisoning the community, and illegally used taxpayer funds to reserve Ivy Tech for a joint public meeting scheduled with IDEM as a closure plan meeting (to start the clock), but outwardly portrayed as a town hall.

An article also finally did appear on Eagle 99.3 – after the TV news coverage. Curiously, although the interview supplied an overwhelming amount of evidence surrounding this company’s numerous violations and threats to public safety, none of that information appeared in the article. What did appear, were manufactured quotes and unsubstantiated criminal allegations about the citizens who brought the concerns to light. After the damage was done, these were quietly removed with no statement of correction or retraction.

The June 5th meeting was more performance art by the city of Lawrenceburg than a town hall. Questions were discouraged until after the news cameras had left, while Del Weldon monopolized 80 minutes of the meeting in a scripted presentation with this company. They called Olin Clawson – a career politician from New Mexico who appears confused about where his wells are even located – to read a fluff piece. Meanwhile, Randy Turner – a lifelong resident and 20+ year superintendent of the wellhead actually endangered – was ignored in the back of the room.

Inadequate attention was given to the actual pond whose closure clock was started, and many citizens still do not understand the circumstances in question and the matter at stake. The IDEM representatives were also completely unprepared for what they were about to walk into. Lawrenceburg had not informed them of the meeting’s dual purpose, so many of their responses were non-committal and vague. This was explained in detail in this live video.

And that brings us to today. Our local officials are determined to do only what is necessary to quell the public interest. Everything here has proven that point countless times over. But what can you do?

  1. If you value what we are doing and want to protect your water, you can help by submitting this document to IDEM. This is your expected role in the public comment period and exercises your right as citizens to call for a proper public hearing and a transparent investigation. It is not a pointless petition. About 30 more signed documents are still needed to force the hearing, and time is running out.
  2. Also, you can help support the citizen action. The site is private property, which is under the exclusive authority of local government has exclusive authority – IDEM’s authority is limited to enforcing regulation. Only local government can assert the level of direct control to halt a threat to public safety – this includes the testing which is so desperately needed. When local officials fail or refuse to take those actions, citizens can enforce those actions through a court filing. I have invested everything that I have to do what your elected officials will not – their jobs. But I have nothing left to give, so at this point, it is up to the community whether those demands are met. Every contribution is significant.
  3. If nothing else, you can stand up and be heard. If you support a sports team, you don’t cheer from behind the bleachers and hope no one sees you. This is not a political issue simply because politicians are standing in the way for their own benefit, at your expense. Water is a fundamental right. If you won’t stand up yourselves that simply because a politician is involved, exactly where do you draw the line?

If this page hasn’t motivated you to do one of those three things, then make note of every name in this document. Those will be the ones to hold responsible for attempting to convince you that this information was in somehow in dispute. Misleading the public about a threat to public safety is a federal crime – even if the reason is because they were too negligent to get their facts straight before speaking.

Verdant Wins ACS Green Chemistry & Engineering Competition

After a vigorous five month competition against some of the most innovative companies from around the world, Verdant emerged victorious from the American Chemical Society’s 2015 Green Chemistry & Engineering conference in Washington D.C. with a $10000 Grand Prize. The technologies vying for recognition ranged from biofuel to bionomics. We extend the greatest respect to our competitors, all of whom are making very impressive strides toward a common goal.

Verdant presented a system capable of refining complex mixtures of chemical waste back into pure, reusable chemicals. The economic viability of process was the key to victory – separating the chemicals in just a few steps with a yield above 90%.  But the greatest breakthrough is the message it sends to industry.