News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 6, 2013

EPA screening finds metal hazards at former dump site

City ‘shocked and surprised’ by finds

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Preliminary environmental screening of a former industrial dump site in Terre Haute indicate there are likely a number of potentially-hazardous metals in the ground, officials said Tuesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted an initial screening at the former dump site on the east bank of the Wabash River near Hulman Street last month. That screening showed a “high probability” of a number of metals in the soil, said Sherry Lam, on-scene coordinator for the EPA in Indianapolis.

Final results of the testing should be available in two- to three weeks, Lam told the Tribune-Star on Tuesday afternoon.

Pat Martin, city planner, told the Terre Haute Board of Sanitary Commissioners on Tuesday that state and federal environmental officials walked the site after receiving photographs of the property from the City of Terre Haute. Those photos were taken after the city cleared honeysuckle and other brush from the property, revealing large quantities of industrial waste, including several 55-gallon barrels, Martin said.

“We were somewhat shocked and surprised at what we found,” Martin told the commissioners. The main concern at this point is that metals may have seeped into groundwater below the site, he said.

The City of Terre Haute owns the 39-acre site, which is between Prairieton Road and the Wabash River near Hulman Street. Sugar Creek Scrap, a West Terre Haute company, gave the property to the city last year at no cost.

During its inspection, the EPA took dozens of ground samples for further testing, Martin said. The federal agency also collected water samples from a small pond on the property, he said.

After a lengthy inspection of the property, officials determined it had been an industrial dump site, Martin said. There were no indications of residential waste, he said.

One city official described the debris at the site as representing a “virtual who’s who” of past Terre Haute manufacturers. In addition to likely metals, the site inspection also revealed foundry sand and foundry molds, city officials said Tuesday.

At least two plastic-lined barrels discovered on the property had previously contained acid, Martin noted. All of the barrels at the site were “compromised” with the exception of one, which remains full and intact, he said. The site also contains hundreds – or perhaps thousands – of discarded tires.

If hazardous materials are discovered, the EPA would remove them, Lam told the Tribune-Star in an earlier interview. The EPA is paying for the current testing, Martin said.

The city is preparing to accept bids from contractors to remove debris from the site, including junked cars, buses and trucks.

The city plans to use the property to build a “floatable control” structure as part of the $120-million wastewater treatment system upgrade. The structure will capture floating objects in the combined wastewater/stormwater sewer system, such as plastic bottles, keeping them out of the wastewater treatment plant.

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