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Kim was indeed mistaken in stating that Fern Lake is private (he made the assumption based on seeing no-trespassing signs); the sentence has been corrected.
However, as to the timeframe for when the tannery started dumping chemicals into Yellow River, Will Nixon's article in E: The Environmental Magazine states:
"For decades the tannery used tannin made from the bark of local oak trees, which sent an occasional black tide flowing downstream but left no lasting damage. But in 1965, the tannery entered the chemical age, converting to a 'chrome' tanning process that treated the hides with strong acids, and adding synthetic dyes and eventually more than 400 different chemicals."
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