City of Balaton gets $19,000 windfall

MARSHALL – Getting unexpected money is always welcome news, and the city of Balaton got some good news this month.

The money, $19,000, came from a class-action suit filed by Korein Tillery, a St. Louis, Mo.-based law firm, against Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. over the herbicide atrazine, according to a news release from Balaton City Hall.

“It was a class-action suit that was filed in Illinois,” said Kent Henkel, water operator for Balaton. “We had atrazine in the old well back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It was found by a random check by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

The effects of groundwater contamination by atrazine are controversial, with some studies claiming evidence of cancer and birth defects caused by the chemical. However, the EPA determined in 2000 that atrazine was not likely to cause cancer. Atrazine is biodegradable over time.

The city responded by drilling a new well near U.S. Highway 14 in the East Bay addition to replace the old well located in Lions Park and building a new treatment plant. The old well was kept as an emergency backup.

According to a letter from Stephen Tillery, 1,685 communities across America, with about 37 million inhabitants, filed claims for atrazine in their water, starting in 2004. In October 2012, a federal judge in Illinois approved a $105 million settlement and ruled it was up to the local communities and water providers on how to spend the funds.

Balaton heard about it when they received a request last summer to supply documentation of the original atrazine contamination. Then on Jan. 15, the city received a check for $19,169.78.

As for the old well, according to Henkel, it’s been fine for a while now. Atrazine levels declined throughout the years to zero.

“We had to drill another well near the new well when the casing broke down,” Henkel said. “All summer we used the old well.”

Henkel said the city would probably use the money to help pay for the new well, which cost about $60,000 to drill. And the old well in Lions Park is still there for backup.