The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 14, 2014

DNR reviewing ADM spill assessment plan

By Brenden West
Assistant Editor

CLINTON — It has now been 69 days since toxic mercury spilled at Clinton’s Archer Daniels Midland branch, some of which still sits at the bottom of a well thousands of feet deep.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has received the company’s site assessment plan for removing the liquid. ADM will find out this week if those plans will suffice.

Through a press release, ADM didn’t specify through what means it plans to recover the remaining mercury, stating only that it has outlined “the next immediate steps to address the mercury release at the facility.” The initial spill took place Nov. 6. Although no one was harmed and the company said it contained the area, more than 10 weeks will have passed before the mercury is completely removed.

However, one of the likely changes outlined by ADM may be that the company will do away with mercury seal tanks altogether.

“Notably, the proposal includes a commitment to voluntarily replace mercury seals with mechanical seals that do not contain mercury on all of the well motors at the facility to eliminate the risk that this incident will every occur again,” ADM said through media relations rep Jackie Anderson.

According to Kevin Baskins, DNR media spokesman, ADM was not in violation of any policies the department created regarding mercury seals. Such laws do exist in other states, though.

“One of the things that kind of came out of this is that there are other states that prohibit (mercury) through their seals,” Baskins said. “Iowa does not prohibit that.”

Baskins said it’s too early to know if the incident on Nov. 6 will result in a policy overhaul, although he added it could be possible.

“We haven’t really got to that point yet,” he said. “We’re focused right now on how to address this particular situation.”

Right now, the DNR and ADM are working together to locate the mercury, Baskins said. That will involve some monitoring at different areas of the well and may involve dropping cameras to those depths to locate the liquid.

Baskins said the DNR will likely respond within the week to give ADM its next direction. Right now, the department has brought in experts, including a geologist, to analyze ADM’s plan for approval.