August 1, 2013

Firm investigates possible contaminated sites in area

Consultant: Insurance often effective in cleanup efforts of brownfields.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — An Indianapolis environmental consulting firm is continuing to investigate under-used and possibly contaminated business sites in the area to prepare owners for cleaning them up and increasing their marketability.

Last October, the cities of Logansport and Rochester along with Fulton County received a brownfields grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for $686,500, which they used to hire Bruce Carter Associates, LLC to investigate vacant and under-used commercial sites with possible environmental contaminants. Logansport’s share was $330,000.

Since starting the investigations in December, Joel Markland, director of project development at Bruce Carter Associates, said the firm has investigated about four Brownfields properties in Logansport out of the about 40 listed in the grant.

The firm starts by developing a history report on a property by visiting the site, interviewing people aware of its uses and conducting records searches on state and federal databases, Markland said.

“It helps us determine what might be happening environmentally on a property,” he said. “It doesn’t tell us if it is contaminated, but what operations and what kinds of chemicals were used.”

After the history report, the firm collects soil and groundwater samples.

Markland said the firm is currently awaiting laboratory results on two Logansport properties. He declined to refer to specific properties by name before receiving permission from the owners.

The list of about 40 properties he spoke about to city officials in December includes the former Exide battery plant on Water Street, Modine Manufacturing Company on Water Street and the former Trelleborg plant on General Street.

Markland said when contaminants are found, they are usually metals and volatile organic compounds like dry cleaner solvents.

While the grant only covers the costs of investigating the properties, Markland said oftentimes owners’ liability insurance policies will pick up the cost of any necessary cleanups.

“A lot of property owners don’t know that,” he said. “They’re sitting on this fear of liability, this fear of value reduction. We can solve that with their insurance policies.”

Logansport Community Development Director Chris Armstrong said she is familiar with the reaction as well.

“Sometimes people are afraid it’s going to come back on them and that’s not it at all,” she said.

An insurance claim can often be filed after groundwater contamination is discovered because it establishes third party damage, Markland said. Filing a claim based on soil contamination is more difficult, as it would require soil tests to be conducted on adjoining properties.

Although insurance can be used as a significant source for funding cleanups, it doesn’t work out for some, Markland continued. There are other resources available from the state and Environmental Protection Agency, however.

One of the final tasks the firm performs on a contaminated property is recommending a course of action to remedy the site.

“We can talk them through the best possible approach to cleaning it up,” Markland said.

Cleanups are dependent on what kinds of contaminants are present, Markland continued. Sometimes soil excavation is all that is required. When volatile organic compounds are present, materials that encourage the growth of bacteria that consume these compounds are injected into the soil.

Armstrong said the cleanups on any contaminated properties will play a vital role in their future marketability.

“We hope to prepare them for sale,” she said of Logansport’s vacant properties in the grant.

The Brownfields projects are scheduled to continue through 2015.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or