MICHIGAN CITY – There’s a patch of land along 8th Street, just east of Michigan Boulevard and across Trail Creek from the casino, that seems out of place.
It’s a grassy area, with cattails sprouting and not much else. It appears pristine, seemingly forgotten amid the residential and retail properties nearby.
But look closer and you’ll spot a couple of monitoring wells out in the middle of the grass, a testament to its clouded history. The property was formerly the site of several businesses, which city officials claim polluted the land so badly, it required a long and costly cleanup funded by the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Between 2007 and 2010, almost 20,000 tons of soil was removed from sites in that stretch, according to a lawsuit filed by the city last month against two of the former tenants – Erincraft Inc. and Weber Sign Service Inc.
Erincraft was located at 742 E. 8th St.; Weber Sign at 742 E. 8th. Those are the parcels now lying vacant.
The city Redevelopment Commission acquired those properties in 2003 through adverse possession, according to a suit filed in La Porte Superior Court.
It then learned through its consultant, Environmental Incorporated of Valparaiso, that the “contaminated properties have been impacted by a variety of pollutants including, but not limited to, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as tetrachloroethelene and its derivative products, petroleum products and metals.”
The site on 8th Street is just one of the properties over which the lawsuit is filed. The other is the former Concord Custom Cleaners site at 10th and Michigan Boulevard.
But it is the 8th Street site that has been the subject of the most work and costs – so far.
“Michigan City expended funds in 2007 and 2010 to remediate contaminated soils on the contaminated properties,” the suit said. “These remediation efforts involved the removal of 19,759 tons of contaminated soils and resulted in the reduction of soil contamination” to below acceptable levels set by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
However, certain contaminants remain above acceptable levels in the soil and groundwater in the area.
“Testing has confirmed that contaminants from the Begley property [10th and Michigan], Weber Sign property and Erincraft property have polluted the contaminated properties, requiring remediation and investigation,” the suit claims.
While the Begley property appears to be the source of the groundwater contamination, the suit claims “certain soil impacts appear to be the result of past operations” at Weber and Erincraft.
The suit names Begley; William Weber, Kathleen Weber and Weber Sign Service; and Arvind Verma, Jaidevi Verman, Sheela Casper and Erincraft.
The four-count suit seeks an unspecified amount of damages to cover all costs involved in investigation, assessment, remediation, removal or corrective action”; damages for lost revenue and property value; and all attorney fees relating to those actions.
The brownfield project that replaced the contaminated soil on 8th Street was partially financed with $200,000 from the U.S. EPA and $40,000 from the Indiana Finance Authority Federal Grant Matching Incentive.
Total cost of the past cleanup was not mentioned in the suit, and there is no estimate on the cost of remediating the groundwater and further soil contamination.