News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 20, 2013

EPA testing land along Wabash River

39 acres recently acquired by city contain several 55-gallon drums, tanker trucks with unknown contents

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Concern about possible hazardous waste has brought state and federal environmental officials to the site of a former scrap yard on the east bank of the Wabash River on the near southwest side.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to begin taking soil samples next week at the site, which is near the intersection of Hulman Street and Prairieton Road and is now owned by the City of Terre Haute.

The 39-acre piece of property was given to the city at no cost last year by Sugar Creek Scrap, a West Terre Haute business, a company official said Tuesday.

However, Pat Martin, city planner, said city officials have become concerned about possible hazardous materials at the site. Their concern centers around several 55-gallon drums with unknown contents, said Chuck Ennis, city engineer. There are also a couple of tanker trucks on the property, also with unknown contents, he said.

“There are lots of barrels mixed with the trash and tires at the site,” Ennis told a Tuesday meeting of the Terre Haute Board of Sanitary Commissioners, noting that the waste has been at the site for many years.

State and federal environmental officials visited the site last Friday, Ennis said. The EPA is expected to start taking soil samples next week, he said.

The testing will be paid for by the EPA, Martin said. A final EPA report should be available in the next month or two, he said.

The testing “should give [EPA] an idea of how bad the site is,” Martin said.

The EPA will be testing for a variety of chemicals, including PCBs, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds, said Sherry Lam, an on-scene coordinator for the EPA in Indianapolis.

The test results should be known in about two weeks but will require a little additional time to process, she said.

If the site proves to contain hazardous materials, the EPA would likely remove those materials, Lam said. “We would remove hazardous substances, if they are present there, so that they’re not a threat to other people that work at the site, like the [contractors hired by the city] to remove all that scrap metal,” she said.

The Sanitary Board is preparing to accept bids for a contractor to remove the scrap steel at the site. The board voted Tuesday to accept specifications for the job, which is expected to get under way later this year, probably in the spring. Any contractor winning the bid will take possession of the scrap metal, Ennis noted.

“There are tons and tons of scrap steel there,” Ennis told the board. “School buses, cars, trucks, you name it, it’s all there.”

The city obtained the former Sugar Creek Scrap property last year to provide a place for a “floatable control” structure, part of the city’s $120-million revamping of its combined wastewater/stormwater system. The structure, which will be located near the river, will capture floating debris in the sewer system, such as plastic bags or bottles, keeping those items out of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, city officials have said.

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