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home : most recent : government-federal September 23, 2017

9/4/2017 7:31:00 AM
EPA proposing $3.8 million cleanup for Elm Street site in Terre Haute
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The EPA notes that all of Terre Haute’s city water is treated to meet safe drinking water standards. More information about the Elm Street site and cleanup plan can be found on EPA’s web site at and at

Howard Greninger, Tribune-Star

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a $3.8 million groundwater contamination cleanup for an Elm Street site in Terre Haute to remove volatile organic compounds found in water wells dating back to the 1980s.

The proposed cleanup site is 18.5 acres. The EPA lists the site as the Elm Street Groundwater Contamination Superfund site. It is bounded from roughly Locust Street to north, North Third Street to the east, railroad tracks to south, and Wabash River to west.

The EPA plans to remove contaminated soil from areas accessible to the public; install wells to extract vapors where volatile organic compounds or contaminated soil is too deep to be removed; monitor groundwater to demonstrate the effectiveness of soil cleanup; and implement land-use restrictions.

Contamination is as deep as 50 feet and “an estimated 2,300 tons of contaminated soil will need to be removed from the site,” said EPA spokesperson Rachel Bassler.
The EPA estimates 30 groundwater monitoring wells are to be installed at the site and will remain on-site “until the groundwater cleanup goals have been met. This could last up to 20 years,” Bassler said.

A remedial design “typically takes one to two years. The remedial action work would begin after design is completed,” Bassler said. “After the design work is complete, soil cleanup would be completed in approximately 3 years and the groundwater cleanup would be completed in up to 20 years.”

The EPA in August began seeking public comment on the proposed plan and will continue to collect comments until Sept. 6. Comments can be made to Cheryl Allen at EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago at or via fax at 312-408-2234.

The contamination was first discovered in the 1980s, when several wells in Terre Haute’s Elm Street municipal well field were found to have volatile organic compounds. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management conducted a site assessment from 1987 to 1989 and identified three potential source areas for the pollution, according to the EPA.

The EPA contacted potentially responsible parties Gurman Container and Supply property at 800 N. Third St., the Ashland (formerly known as BiState Products) property at 118 Elm St., and the Machine Tool Service property at 701 N. First St.

In 1999 and 2000 IDEM sampled soil and groundwater and found that some of the chemicals detected in the municipal wells were also detected in soil and groundwater at the three facilities investigated. From about 2003 to 2006, EPA issued a series of letters to Ashland, Gurman and MTS requesting information regarding their operations. Each of the parties submitted to EPA their response to the information requests, the EPA reports.

On March 7, 2007, EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List, a list of Superfund sites nationwide. All parties considered potentially responsible for the contamination declined to participate in conducting the site investigation and developing the cleanup alternatives, called a remedial investigation and feasibility study, the EPA reports. Therefore, in 2008, EPA began the investigation and feasibility study with federal funds, according to the EPA.

During the remedial investigation, which examines the extent of the contamination, volatile organic compounds were detected in the groundwater and surface and subsurface soil. Arsenic was found in the groundwater and soil. Other metals, PCBs and pesticides were also found in the soil. In 2013, Ashland notified EPA that it would voluntarily remove contaminated soil from its property and demolish several on-site buildings and structures. An inactive railroad spur, seven subsurface pipes and fluid in the pipes were also disposed of off-site. The remedial investigation was completed in October 2016 and the feasibility study, which evaluates cleanup alternatives, was completed in July this year.

Bassler said the EPA “plans to negotiate with the potentially responsible parties to do the remedial design work and to perform the remedial action cleanup.”

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