The Porter Redevelopment Commission will meet in special session May 17 at 8
p.m. to answer questions that have arisen over the environmental status of
31 acres known as the Brickyard the RDC purchased for $350,000 in 2009.
During the recent primary-election campaign, Democratic Town Council
candidate Elka Nelson paid for a nearly three-quarter page advertisement in
the Chesterton Tribune citing her concerns over the findings of a Phase 2
environmental study previously conducted for the RDC by consultant Weaver
Tuesday night, town attorney Patrick Lyp said of the advertisement, “This is
nothing more than fear-mongering.”
He said selected portions of the study were quoted but not others to make it
sound like an environmental disaster was present on the Brickyard parcel
located at the northwest corner of Beam Street and Sexton Avenue.
“To say the Redevelopment Commission was hoodwinked or bought some Love
Canal is ridiculous,” said Lyp.
The RDC asked Porter director of engineering Matt Keiser to make sure a
representative of Weaver Boos is present May 17. After last night’s meeting
Nelson said, “It’ll be interesting to see what Weaver Boos says when they
Are there problems on the site? Yes, said Lyp, but the RDC went into the
purchase with its eyes open and aware of the true situation.
During the Oct. 27, 2009 RDC meeting at which the Brickyard purchase was
authorized, Keiser said the Phase 2 study shows coal ash was found near the
Norfolk Southern Railroad but not to the degree federal agencies would have
jurisdiction; it was anticipated the town could handle the mitigation
Last night, Keiser said it’s not surprising contaminants were found because
beginning in the late 1880s for about 40 years a brickyard with a furnace
operated there; the town could remove the contaminants but nothing mandates
that it does, he added.
Weaver Boos recommended pushing the contaminated areas toward the railroad
to the south as a berm, continued Keiser, which is commonly done in other
industrial areas. What’s in the Brickyard has sat there for over 100 years
and hasn’t leached into the groundwater or seeped into the water supply,
according to Keiser.
Asked to comment, consultant A.J. Monroe of SEH, which is under contract to
design the Brickyard development, said, “The RDC is commissioned to
redevelop property in town. That’s your job.”
He noted Portage’s new Lakefront River Walk park on the shores of Lake
Michigan is on land once used by Midwest Steel; 40 years ago industrial
waste was dumped on the ground and a sewage treatment plant operated there,
according to Monroe.
RDC member Al Raffin said he arrived late at the 2009 meeting and asked
Tuesday what is the cost to mitigate the Brickyard contamination. Member
Bruce Snyder said one of the reasons the town paid $350,000 for the site
instead of the appraised value of $1.1 million is because of its
environmental history and the need to spend additional money to address it.
Raffin said, “I don’t recall us getting the (Weaver Boos) report. Who would
say what our liability is?” Keiser said the town’s consultants will make
recommendations how to proceed at the appropriate time.
Porter Town Council member Dave Babcock asked from the audience if the RDC
was aware of the contamination before they bought it. “It’s the first I’ve
heard of it.” Lyp later reminded those present the Brickyard isn’t virgin
Snyder said he wants to have all the town’s experts on hand for the May 17
meeting, delayed until 8 p.m. because of the Porter Park Board meeting at 7
Tentatively planned for the Brickyard are single-family residential units,
townhomes, a senior-living center, neighborhood commercial, a municipal fire
station and open space/trails. Keiser said preliminary engineering now is
underway to design the most appropriate way to route sanitary sewer flow for
Also Tuesday, the RDC heard Monroe explain the highlights of an Alternative
Transportation Study that would shuttle tourists to local parks, sites and
venues related to Porter’s Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project. Options
ranging from small buses to a Disneyland-style monorail are discussed in the
study. The RDC took no action.
Member LeAnn McCrum and non-voting member Ron Stone were absent.