Chesterton Tribune

IDEM: More soil samples needed to check Porters Brickyard for contamination

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A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management said it appears that additional soil samples are necessary to delineate the extent of contamination at the Brickyard parcel in Porter.

According to IDEM public information officer Amy Hartsock, it will take about 90 days for the agency to confirm that after reviewing the latest testing done by Weaver Boos Consultants, LLC at the direction of the Porter Redevelopment Commission.

Depending on a number of variables, the Weaver Boos report indicates it could cost approximatey $225,000 to $430,000 to remediate portions of the site so it can be redeveloped.

Deemed as feasible remedial alternatives are clearing/chipping trees and placing clean soil cover, or doing the same but also relocating the affected surface soil to form a berm covered with topsoil for seeding.

Weaver Boos also estimated that under a worst-case scenario it could cost from $1.9 million to $2.9 million to meet more-restrictive remedial guidelines like having to excavate, transport and landfill soil, although that option was described as “therefore considered infeasible".

The report concluded that “no acute environmental or human health risks warranting immediate action are indicated", especially since there is little activity on the vacant property.

Weaver Boos also found that “groundwater sampling results provide no indications of measurable impairment of groundwater quality beneath the property. Thus, migration from the soil to the groundwater does not appear to be occurring.”

The majority of homes in the area use Lake Michigan water provided by Indiana American Water Co. although some residents within a mile radius of the site rely on private wells for their water supply.

The nearly 32-acre Brickyard is two adjoining parcels purchased in late 2009 for $350,000 by the Redevelopment Commission; the property is located at the southwest corner of Beam Street and Sexton Avenue. A railroad borders the southern perimeter.

Preliminary environmental testing was done in 2006 for the previous owner and in 2009 on behalf of the Town of Porter. The latter showed one soil-test location with an arsenic concentration three times the typical background level, considered a likely result of combustion residue from a former brickmaking operation at the site in the late 1890s.

Late this spring following a citizen complaint, IDEM requested and the Redevelopment Commission authorized an updated and expanded analysis of soil/groundwater at the Brickyard, which Weaver Boos subsequently performed. Those tests found arsenic in additional soil samples taken.

Hartsock said, “This site is in the beginning stages of characterization. Several remedial alternatives have been evaluated by Weaver Boos, but a formal closure strategy has not yet been proposed or approved by IDEM.”

Once the site is completely characterized by IDEM as to the extent and location of contamination, the Redevelopment Commission then will be required to submit a remediation work plan, typically within 60 to 90 days, and IDEM has a similar time frame to review the document and provide comments, according to Hartsock.

She also said when contaminants remain at a site above residential closure levels, IDEM will require that an environmental restrictive covenant be placed on the property prior to granting site closure.

The commission purchased the Brickyard to redevelop it as an extension of Porter’s downtown with new single-family, townhome and neighborhood commercial uses anchored by a central senior-living complex. Eventually a new town fire station and possibly other municipal uses are planned there, too.

Michele Bollinger wasn’t a member of the commission in 2009, but she’s its president today. “From my understanding we always knew there would be a cost to remediate (the Brickyard) that would be rolled in on the development.”

Bollinger said Brickyard engineering and site planning were underway, however, the commission decided first to address the contamination in case uses on the site would have to be moved because of it.

At the current time it appears approximately 6 to 9 acres may be subject to mitigation/remediation depending whether commercial or residential uses are planned on them, according to Weaver Boos.

Hartsock said IDEM typically does not delay construction projects unless an imminent threat is present. “If remediation (likely exposure control) is not implemented, IDEM would possibly restrict certain property uses such as residential or recreational use.”

Pending further testing, in the Brickyard’s current state Weaver Boos recommends “activites involving long-term or intensive exposure to affected surface soil such as gardening, digging or burrowing by recreational users should be actively discouraged.”

Bollinger said it’s her understanding speaking with IDEM and Weaver Boos that Porter could either start development on the unaffected acreage or choose to remediate the necessary portions first --- “decisions we don’t have an answer to yet.”

She added that the town wants IDEM’s approval and will continue to cooperate fully. “We’ll have an official presentation when we get (the Weaver Boos report) back from IDEM. We want to be above board about this.”

Bollinger noted other former industrial properties around the region that initially were found to have contamination were remediated and later successfully redeveloped.

Hartsock agreed brownfield sites like the Brickyard can be reused if environmental concerns are addressed. “Yes, the majority of sites conduct remediation activities in order to redevelop the property.”

In a related matter, now under construction is Porter’s Brickyard hike/bike trail with a portion built adjacent to the west edge of Sexton Avenue, which is the Brickyard redevelopment parcel’s east boundary.

The land adjacent to the bike trail along Sexton near Beam Street drops off sharply. Porter director of engineering Matt Keiser said, “We are looking into the necessity of a railing for the west edge of Sexton, but IDEM does not have anything to do with that, from my understanding.”


Posted 10/7/2011