Chesterton Tribune



Army Corps and IDEM to tell remediation plan for old Nike missile site here

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For more than 15 years the U.S. Department of Defense operated in Porter a surface-to-air missile battery--the Nike C-32 site, part of the Chicago-Gary Defense ring--on property which today is either privately owned or part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Nike C-32 was built in 1957 at two locations: a control/housing area off South Mineral Springs Road, now the National Lakeshore headquarters; and the launch area itself, located immediately east of Wagner Road and north of West Oak Hill Road, on acreage subsequently sold by the General Services Administration to private parties.

The installation, however, was decommissioned in 1974, and over the last 40 years or so much of the facility has been demolished and removed, including five radar tracking towers, 3,300 linear feet of barb-wired chain-link fence, a trio of 35-foot tall brick smoke stacks, and five 10,000-gallon underground storage tanks.

Because the Ajax and later the Hercules warheads--as well as booster and sustainer motors--were shipped to Nike C-32 fully assembled, any release into the environment of explosive and propellants chemicals (including radioactive materials from the nuclear-armed warheads--was “probably very limited,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers believes.

Yet both the control/housing and the launch areas had its own sewage treatment plant and electrical transformers, both also had underground storage tanks, while control/housing had a motor pool and a grease trap, and chemical solvents were used at the launch area for the maintenance of radar and launch equipment.

All of which has raised some level of concern among Corps and Indiana of Department of Environmental Management officials about possible soil and groundwater contamination at the two sites.

To that end the Corps and IDEM will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, at the Chesterton town hall, to discuss a proposed plan of remedial alternatives.

A preliminary assessment based on a visit of the properties by the Corps on Nov.. 8-10, 2006--the purpose of which was to “determine whether the site poses little or no potential threat to human health and environment”--has found the following:

* There are no wetlands or endangered species habitats within Nike C-32.

* Groundwater and soil impacted by six underground storage tanks removed from control/housing were remediated and the cases closed by IDEM.

* Although the primary source of drinking water at Nike C-32 was Lake Michigan, a well was installed and used at both control/housing and the launch area. The control/housing well is still used for drinking water, but the launch area well was previously used for non-potable purposes only and is now inactive.

* Former control/housing buildings are now occupied by the National Park Service and are well maintained. There is no evidence of control/housing’s sewage treatment plant, which was located on West Oak Hill Road.

* Buildings still intact in the launch area could possibly contain asbestos duct and pipe insulation.

* It’s “unlikely that any missile components were left at the C-32 site when the properties were transferred” to the National Lakeshore and private parties in the 1970s.

* It is, on the other hand, possible that chemical solvents used in the maintenance of radar and launch equipment were “dumped onto the ground, in storm drains, ditches, or sinks” at Nike C-32.

* Transformers removed from an electrical substation on West Oak Hill Road did contain PCBs, and the presence of PCBs was found in surface soil. Following the removal of those transformers in 2006, “surface soil from the electrical substation area was removed and replaced with clean soil.”

* Water which had accumulated in the underground missile magazines was found to contain “either paint chips or corroded metal.” That water was pumped out, filtered, and transported to a water treatment plant for disposal. All steel structures were then removed from the magazines, which were then demolished. Concrete rubble from demolition was allowed to fall into the cavities, those cavities were backfilled with clean soil, and the backfill compacted and grass-seeded.

* “A preliminary analysis of the surface water pathway indicates that surface water discharge targets do not exist at or near the C-32 site.”

* However, any “future development and construction at the launch area property may expose construction workers to potential contaminants in the subsurface through dermal contact, ingestion, or inhalation of soil. Groundwater wells located on site and within four miles indicate the potential for risks of exposure through the groundwater pathway.”

The proposed plan--on digital media--is available for review at the Thomas Branch of the Westchester Public Library, 200 W. Indiana Ave. in Chesterton. The public has until Friday, Feb. 2 to submit comments on the plan.

For more information, contact Brooks Evens, USACE Technical Manager, at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Room 921, 600 Martin Luther King Jr. Place, Louisville, KY 40201.

Contact him at

Or Katelyn Newton at



Posted 1/12/2018




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