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Sewer system cutting off Metalworking Lubricants after repeat pollution violations

Oil-recycling company on near-southside lost industrial-waste related sewer service on Dec. 1.
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Posted at 12:58 PM, Dec 06, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — A facility that has been blamed for foul odors that sometimes permeate a near-southside neighborhood has been ordered to stop flushing its industrial waste into the city's sewage system.

Officials with Citizens Energy Group cut off industrial-waste sewer service to Metalworking Lubricants on Dec. 1 after the oil-recycling facility at 1509 S. Senate Ave. repeatedly exceeded permitted pollution limits.

"Going forward, Metalworking will only be allowed to discharge sanitary wastewater from the Blending Building and the Office/Lab Building," Dan Considine, a Citizens spokesman, said in a statement.

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A Metalworking Lubricants employee wearing white protective clothing transfers dirty oil from a train car to a truck before it gets moved into the company's storage tanks. The Pontiac, Mich.,-based company's Indianapolis plant cleans and recycles used oil.

The sewer shutdown comes as part of an agreement between Metalworking Lubricants and Citizens that was signed Nov. 8 by an administrative hearing officer. The agreement settles a host of pollution-discharge complaints levied by Citizens — the city's sewer service managers — going back to April 2021.

Metalworking Lubricants must also pay nearly $2 million in damages, fines and fees, under the settlement.

The agreement means the company must curtail its Indianapolis oil-recycling operation or find a way to ship industrial waste to a water treatment operation somewhere outside of Indianapolis.

"If Metalworking wishes to discharge any wastewater other than sanitary in the future, it is required to apply for a new permit," Considine said, noting that for the next five years any new permit application for the facility would come with strict pollution limits. Those limits remain even if new owners take over the facility, he said.

Neighbors have been complaining for decades about the "Southside Stench," a foul odor that has been known to spark a flood of 911 calls from residents who mistake the harsh, chemical smell for a gas leak.

Officials for Metalworking Lubricants did not respond to WRTV's request for comment. The company has not accepted responsibility for the odors in the neighborhood.

The company employs oil technicians, lab technicians, tanker drivers and factory laborers, according to its website. It was not clear how the sewer-service shutdown might impact local jobs.

In August, the company agreed to pay $310,000 to settle a Clean-Air-Act violation complaint that dates back about 10 years. The U.S. Environmental Protecting Agency alleged that Metalworking Lubricants violated its manufacturing permit by emitting more than 25 tons of hazardous air pollutants per year.

More: 'Southside Stench': Neighbors hope EPA settlement with oil-recycling plant clears the air

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Metalworking Lubricants cleans and recycles dirty oil products at this facility at 1509 S. Senate Ave.

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.