News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 17, 2013

EPA contacting former owners along Wabash to clean up city land

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has sent letters to potential “responsible parties” who may have had a hand in industrial contamination found on city-owned property near the Wabash River.

Speaking at a Terre Haute Board of Sanitary Commissioners meeting in City Hall on Tuesday, Terry Modesitt, attorney for the board, said the EPA has contacted those entities that may be tied to contamination discovered at the site earlier this year.

In May, the EPA confirmed that tests showed lead in the soil at the site that exceeded “regulatory levels.” In some areas, the lead was 10 times those levels, the tests showed.

Now the EPA turns its attention to the “responsible parties” who contributed to the contamination. The federal agency has said it will work with those parties to clean up the property, which consists of several acres between Indiana 63 and the Wabash River near Hulman Street.

The City of Terre Haute purchased the property through its Sanitary District last year from Sugar Creek Scrap, a West Terre Haute-based business.

Before the purchase, city officials walked the property with officials from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said Pat Martin, city planner. At the time of that inspection, the sections of the property where the contamination was discovered were not accessible because of trees, honeysuckle and other vegetation, he said.

Another problem, Martin said, was that the property was never licensed as an industrial waste site, meaning there were no documents showing it would have had the sort of contamination discovered. Before the purchase, the city conducted two “phase 1” studies of the site, which involved checking past ownership and known uses.

“That [property] was never a certified landfill,” Martin said after the sanitary board meeting.

EPA officials could not be reached late in the day to learn whether the names of the entities contacted as potentially responsible parties is information currently available to the public.

n Meanwhile, excavation started last week at the former Terre Haute Coke and Carbon brownfield site at 13th and Hulman streets, Martin told the sanitary commissioners. Excavation has been delayed, in part, because of wet conditions, he said, but is now under way with as many as 84 truck loads of dirt removed Tuesday alone.

The excavation is going smoothly; however, a buried smokestack and other debris were discovered on the site, Martin said.

The excavation includes removing topsoil from between three and 10 feet in depth, involving about 80,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and replacing it with clean soil.

The soil is contaminated from decades of coke production at the site. The city’s goal is to make the site available for light industrial manufacturing.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes