When Indiana plastics company PolyJohn Enterprises Corp. first learned in mid-2020 that resin pellets from its factory were leaking into nearby wetlands, one executive said the news was distressing.
The situation had started with complaints from local residents but soon morphed into repeat inspections from regulators, a fine of $11,350 and a negotiated cleanup agreement with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The company, which said it's the world's second-largest maker of portable toilets, said it's spent more than $100,000 on new equipment and added staff to try to prevent spills.
But going back to those first days, Chief Operating Officer Sam Cooper said it was a shock to employees at the Whiting, Ind., facility, which backs into a wetland and recreation area around Lake George.
"To find out that some of our regrind had left our property was a huge blow to the morale of the company and something that we take extremely seriously," he said. "PolyJohn cares deeply about the environment, about Lake George and the community we live in."
The situation first came to public attention two years ago, when people exercising and bird-watching in the recreation area noticed loose resin and plastic powder.
Prompted by those complaints, IDEM inspectors made five visits to the company between July 2020 and April 2021. They noted pellet leaks in their reports and made referrals to the agency's enforcement staff. In dry, factual language, they documented small pieces of plastic in the wetlands and on the company's property, both in the storm sewers and in other parts of the factory grounds.