AP NEWS

EPA plans $320K cleanup of southern Indiana chemical plume

October 4, 2018

GARDEN CITY, Ind. (AP) — The federal government plans to spend $320,000 to clean up a cancer-causing solvent that’s threatening drinking water near a former southern Indiana gas station that Vice President Mike Pence’s family partially owned.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that the chemical plume beneath unincorporated Garden City contains trichloroethylene, or TCE. That industrial solvent, used to degrease metal parts, is considered a carcinogen. Garden City is about 40 miles south of Indianapolis.

The EPA’s cleanup plan for the Superfund site would provide filter devices to residents or businesses with tainted wells. The agency would also track the plume’s migration and concentration levels, The Republic reported .

EPA spokeswoman Rachel Bassler said most Garden City residents are not exposed to drinking water above the federal acceptable risk exposure for TCE.

She said the EPA is projecting that the TCE in the groundwater will be removed by using the filters on the groundwater in Garden City so that the maximum contaminant level of 5 parts per billion is not exceeded.

“As part of this remedy, EPA will monitor private wells to ensure residents are not exposed to TCE above acceptable risk-based exposure levels,” Bassler said. “EPA can amend the remedy to add any necessary additional measures if a larger cleanup system is needed.”

The chemical plume extends from the site of a former Kiel Bros. Oil Co. gas station.

Mike Pence’s father helped build Kiel Bros. Oil Co., and his brother Greg was company president when it went bankrupt in 2004. At its height, the company operated more than 200 gas stations in Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.

Indiana initially found the company responsible for the Garden City contamination, but officials reversed that finding in 2002. Company officials long denied that they were responsible.

The Associated Press reported in July that the state of Indiana — and, to a smaller extent, Kentucky and Illinois — are still on the hook for millions of dollars to clean up more than 85 contaminated sites across the three states once owned by Kiel Bros. Those sites include underground tanks that leaked toxic chemicals into soil, streams and wells.

Indiana alone has spent at least $21 million on the cleanup efforts thus far, according to the AP’s analysis of records.

Bassler said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management installed granular-activated filters at the wellhead of each home or business where groundwater was at or exceeded the maximum contaminant level for TCE. Those filters remove TCE from the groundwater.

The EPA’s site investigation determined that only a few structures should receive the granular-activated filter to be protective, Bassler said.

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