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May 18, 2021

A Brief History of Phreddie Phenol

In 1983, contamination was discovered in a shallow aquifer that supplied the Shelbyville, Indiana municipal water supply. The contamination was identified as phenol, an acidic toxic compound used in manufacturing.

The water company attempted to solve the problem by injecting additional chemicals into the wells. However, the public became alarmed when this introduction of new chemicals resulted in bad-tasting, foul-smelling drinking water.

The situation worsened as city and state officials, local industries and the water utility initially denied the existence of pollution, then later engaged in endless circles of blame and finger-pointing.

Enter Phreddie Phenol.

Phreddie Phenol is a cartoon icon that was created specifically to assist citizens in sorting out the misinformation and resultant confusion that surrounded Shelbyville's phenol contamination. Dozens of Phreddie Phenol cartoons have been published in the local newspaper.

Most of the cartoons appeared from 1983 through 1988. As a consequence, Phreddie achieved a cult-like status in Shelbyville and even boasted his own fan club.

Phreddie Phenol was later recognized by local merchants as a contributor to local economic development for his unique role in boosting the retail sales of thousands of gallons of bottled drinking water during the period.

Eventually, the polluted well was shut down, the water company changed ownership and Shelbyville's drinking water returned to normal.

Like all good little phenol pollutants, Phreddie Phenol is virtually indestructible. That means he is still alive and searching for new crusades. So, if you have any environmental concerns: local, state, national or global, send an e-mail and share your thoughts with Phreddie Phenol. Then stay tuned for Phreddie's New Adventures in this section of the website.

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