Chesterton Tribune

IDEM puts hold on Brickyard monitoring wells

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By PAULENE POPARAD

“We’re very pleased.”

That’s how Porter Redevelopment Commission vice-president Al Raffin reacted to the news the Indiana Department of Environmental Management won’t require the RDC to install permanent monitoring wells on the RDC-owned Brickyard parcel --- for now.

In a March 5 email, IDEM project manager Aunna Huber said the Brickyard doesn’t appear to present a risk through the ingestion of drinking water at this time. Nearby residences are supplied by Indiana American Water Co., which obtains its water from Lake Michigan.

“IDEM does not have concerns with postponing further investigation until the RDC decides to redevelop the property,” Huber added.

According to Raffin, that won’t happen any time soon.

“Right now with the financial condition of the RDC, we’re not doing anything with that property, at least in the foreseen future,” he said. “It sat there for a long time in good times and nobody developed it. Now we’re in lean times.”

Things are lean for the RDC, too, after it took a hit this past December when members voted to refund Porter County the full $313,152 remaining on a $831,000 tax appeal Worthington Steel won; the balance of the settlement came from the county withholding the RDC’s final 2011 property-tax distribution.

Future distributions for the RDC also are expected to be less because of reductions in the assessed valuation for some properties whose taxes fund the commission.

It would have cost about $20,000 to $25,000 to install monitoring wells with additional costs for testing. Said Raffin, “We’re relieved we don’t have to do that work or spend that money. We can devote it to projects we have now.”

RDC cash already is committed to several projects including two hike/bike trails; repayment over several years on $4 million in bonds sold for sanitary-sewer upgrades; and for the Gateway, the town’s largest project focusing on tourism/economic development along the Indiana 49 and U.S. 20 corridors.

“You’d want to put any energies toward that before the Brickyard,” said Raffin, referring to the Gateway.

One stated reason for the Brickyard purchase was to build a new town fire station there; a $5 million federal grant was sought for that purpose, but it never was awarded to Porter. Raffin said if money ever becomes available, the fire station is the most likely thing that would be built on the Brickyard.

At one time single-family and townhome residences as well as a senior-living lifestyle center and neighborhood commercial uses also were planned there as an extension of Porter’s nearby downtown.

Huber’s comments to the RDC indicated the decision not to require monitoring wells was based on information both the RDC and environmental consultant Weaver Boos provided the state agency following a Feb. 21 teleconference between all parties.

In 2009 the RDC paid $350,000 for the 32-acre Brickyard site, a former turn-of-the-century brickmaking operation at the southwest corner of Beam Street and Sexton Avenue. The property was purchased and plans were being made for its development when IDEM mandated expanded testing based on the results of a previous Brickyard environmental study.

After receiving the updated test results last fall, IDEM subsequently ordered monitoring wells be installed to determine whether lead detected in some groundwater samples was at an action level.

Steven Stanford of Weaver Boos told IDEM Feb. 27 that groundwater from the Brickyard is expected to flow north-northwesterly towards the Little Calumet River. The Porter town Public Works complex and Yost School, both across Beam to the north, are served exclusively by municipal water.

In addition, Stanford added, the nearest properties served by private wells are located over one-quarter mile north of the Brickyard.

“Considering the minimal impact (if any) to groundwater quality thus far measured, it is the opinion of Weaver Boos that there is no reasonable potential for exposure to downgradient water well users in connection with conditions measured at the former Brickyard property,” according to Stanford.

Despite the hold on the monitoring wells, Huber told the RDC, “Please keep in mind that additional investigation and/or remediation will be required prior to development. IDEM must be notified of any redevelopment discussions.” Raffin confirmed the RDC will comply.

In a Feb. 27 letter to Huber, RDC president Elka Nelson said current plans for the Brickyard site are to discourage entry there by installing a fence on a portion of the perimeter, and by placing No Trespassing and No Dumping signs at strategic locations.

Posted 3/8/2012