Chesterton Tribune

IDEM asks Porter to test groundwater at brickyard site

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The Porter Redevelopment Commission is preparing for additional environmental testing at its 32-acre Brickyard property, site of a former brick-making operation and furnace in the late 1890s.

That course was laid out, said Porter director of engineering/development Matt Keiser, during a Monday conference call between RDC representatives and a project manager for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

IDEM entered the picture after a citizen complaint earlier this month alerted the agency to an October, 2009 environmental study released prior to the RDC’s purchase of the Brickyard that same month.

Conducted by Weaver Boos Consultants, the preliminary Phase 2 environmental site assessment showed one test location with an arsenic concentration three times the typical background level, likely a result of combustion residue from the Brickyard furnace.

Keiser said Tuesday that because some residents within a one-mile radius of the contaminated test sample rely on private wells for their water supply, IDEM is requesting updated groundwater sampling.

Keiser told the RDC that Weaver Boos can perform the needed tests to establish a contamination perimeter as well as propose scenarios for dealing with contamination at the site, located south of Beam Street and west of Sexton Avenue across from Yost Elementary School.

After last night’s meeting Keiser said the additional Weaver Boos work could cost approximately $25,000.

RDC member Bruce Snyder said the commission did its due diligence before it bought the property and should use the same process to know the extent of contamination; he also inquired if the RDC could recoup the cost to do that.

Brownfield grants might be available, he was told, or the study costs could be rolled into the price when buyers purchase parcels for rededvelopment. Concept plans call for residential uses, a new town fire station, a senior-living center and neighborhood retail.

Keiser said once the extent of the contamination is found (now thought to be on the southern portion of the site), it might be possible to develop the areas around it and use that money to fund the eventual remediation, which could be as simple as berming on-site.

Keiser said he’s researched all the town files regarding Brickyard contamination, and he asked residents with knowledge of past dumping there to contact the town hall. “If there is stuff out there that you know, we want to know and where.”

From the audience, Karen Pisowicz said she’s tried to share information she has with town officials, but Elka Nelson questioned whether some people might incur potential liability in doing that under certain circumstances.

Town attorney Patrick Lyp said other agencies have subpoena power and “we can’t provide immunity or protection from criminal prosecution.”

In a related matter, RDC president Michele Bollinger questioned whether the Brickyard’s environmental outcome will affect the project as it progresses toward town zoning approval as a planned unit development; engineering for the PUD is ongoing.

Lyp said the nature of a PUD is conceptual and even if the Town Council adopts a PUD ordinance on the recommendation of the Plan Commission, the ordinance could be amended in the future.

Also Tuesday, Snyder inquired if the RDC felt it advisable to launch a pilot shuttle service this summer as outlined in a recent Alternative Transportation Study prepared for the town’s Gateway to the Indiana Dunes tourism/economic development initiative.

RDC member Al Raffin noted the Gateway consultant recommended having the shuttle operate for more than one year to determine its viability, and that advertising/promotion would be needed yet the summer tourist season already begins this weekend.

Bollinger said it’s a good idea to start having discussions with the shuttle stakeholders --- Porter County tourism, Indiana Dunes State Park, the South Shore passenger service and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore among them --- so Snyder and RDC member LeAnn McCrum volunteered to do that.

Bollinger announced the Porter Town Council would not meet Tuesday following the RDC as scheduled due to lack of a quorum.


Posted 5/25/2011