Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Porter sets special meeting on brickyard environmental concerns

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By PAULENE POPARAD

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 Boos.

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 come here.”

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 in-house.

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 farmland.

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 p.m.

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 the project.

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.

 

 

Posted 5/11/2011

 

 

 

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