Pollution found at wastewater plant halts project

Nov. 5—An expansion project at the Kokomo Wastewater Treatment Facility is on hold after tests revealed parts of the site are contaminated with toxic chemicals.

Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore said the contamination was found on the east end of the facility's property, located at 1501 W. Markland Ave., which also sits beside the Wildcat Creek.

Tests earlier this year revealed the soil there contained polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, at concentrations of 584 parts per million. The EPA requires levels to be at 10 parts per million after cleanup.

Barry Sneed, a public information officer with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said at the wastewater plant, the contaminants are located mostly below ground and there is currently no known exposure for the chemicals.

Moore said the PCBs are left over from when the area housed Continental Steel Corp., which produced nails and wires from 1914 to 1986 on a 183-acre site, including where the wastewater plant sits now.

The site was placed on the EPA's Superfund list in 1989 after it was discovered that operations at the company resulted in contaminated soil, sediments, surface water and groundwater with PCBs, lead and other chemicals.

Remediation of the site wrapped up in 2011, and the area is now home to the city's soccer fields and a solar park.

Moore said part of EPA's Superfund cleanup included the west bank of Wildcat Creek at the wastewater treatment plant. He said the city believed the EPA had remediated the area and it was cleared for the expansion project, so officials were shocked when they discovered the huge amounts of PCBs in the soil earlier this year.

The discovery led the city to immediately halt construction on a major sewer project that involves building a new wastewater line from the Highland Park area to the facility.

The city is also building a smaller treatment facility to process the water from that line before it's sent into the main treatment plant. That facility will be located where the contamination was found.

Moore said the project is part of a 20-year, state-mandated, long-range control plan.

IDEM's Sneed said the current plan is to excavate all the known PCBs from within the bounds of the city's project area to allow it to continue. After that, IDEM will complete a full investigation into the nature and extent of the contamination.

He said IDEM is adding the site to its state cleanup list, since it was determined the PCB contamination is more extensive than a soil management plan could handle.

To assist the city in completing the project, an IDEM project manager will provide guidance for the removal of the chemicals and also manage the soil plan at the former Continental Steel site, Sneed said.

Now, the city hopes its insurance provider will cover some of the remediation costs at the site, which could be expensive. Moore said they won't know how much the cleanup will cost until IDEM determines how to handle the contaminants.

"This is going to add some unforeseen, and some rather large, additional expenses to this phase of the project," Moore said.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.