News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 1, 2012

READERS’ FORUM: Dec. 1, 2012

The Tribune-Star

---- — How did site get into this shape?

The Tribune-Star on Thursday, Nov. 22, contained an interesting piece by Arthur Foulkes, “Officials vote to advertise job again.”

It concerned bids for cleaning up the former Terre Haute Coke and Carbon industrial site at 13th and Hulman. The article was well-written and clearly explained the bid issue. I located another Tribune-Star article from May 27, 2010, regarding the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission acquiring more of the former Coke & Carbon plant site. This article explained how the land was acquired and that a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, in the amount of $400,000, was awarded for site assessment and cleanup planning.

In addition, the executive director of the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment opined that the site had industrial park or retail potential and could create, depending on the type of business, $10 to $40 an hour jobs. The Nov. 22, 2012, article estimated the entire clean-up project, to include contaminated soil disposal fees to cost about $7 million.

I could not locate any extensive background information about this issue. What I, and hopefully other taxpayers, would like to know is how did we get into this mess. I could not find any history regarding the initial ownership of this property, to include the names of the owners.

I would like to know how long local officials knew about this contaminated site and was there any effort to hold anyone accountable for the contamination.

I could not locate any records of legal action against the previous owners or any efforts by local officials to obtain federal “Super Fund” money to clean up and rehabilitate the site. According to the Nov. 22 article, Terre Haute will now have “breathing room” before it pays for a “major brownfield site cleanup.” These are our tax dollars at work.

This is a “call-all-cars” moment. Over the years, I have read numerous letters to the editor and articles in the Tribune-Star about local issues.

I cannot recall reading anything providing historic information about this Coke & Carbon site. I am asking our local historians, newspaper reporters, prolific letter-to-the-editor writers, local officials and, yes, our local curmudgeons to use the Tribune-Star to inform the citizens of Terre Haute about the history of this apparent environmental nightmare.

Spending $7 million of taxpayer’s money requires a detailed history and thorough explanation.

— Gary S. Izo

Terre Haute

Editor’s Note: An excellent suggestion. The Tribune-Star’s news staff is currently working to answer these questions and provide a thorough background story on the history of the Coke and Carbon site for readers.