Environmental studies of North River property released

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The North River Property environmental reports that Fort Wayne City Council have been waiting for were finally released by the city Monday morning.

The documents are being released about a week after Council approved the controversial land purchase. The purchase of the North River property helps pave the way for riverfront development, but even the councilors who voted for it said it was a bad deal.

Among the many issues some of the councilman had with the deal was the city had not released results of the environmental studies on the land or what it may cost to clean up the land.

“That was a part of the purchase agreement and it was a condition set for us by the sellers,” explained City of Fort Wayne Director of Community Development Greg Leatherman. “They did not want this to be revealed until we were purchasers. This is not something that we wanted to do. We would have rather have been fully transparent and disclose everything we knew. We’re not concerned about what we know about the site, but because we were unable to disclose until we close on the property it has given a lot of people pause that maybe we didn’t know enough about it, that we were hiding things that we did not know. I hope that the release of these documents will alleviate some of those concerns and fears.”

City Councilman Michael Barranda says it’s unfair they were forced to vote without full knowledge of what they were voting on.

“We voted last week, [but] obviously we weren’t allowed to see the reports and now a week later, the rest of the world can see the reports,” he said. “It’s really absurd that something that they knew everyone was going to see in a week we weren’t allowed to see it. It just showed how much the [sellers] didn’t want us to make the informed decision and it’s disappointing.”

In total, the environmental assessment reports are about 2,000 pages.

The reports prepared by AVANT/IWM Consulting and being released for public review contain soil and/or groundwater analytical results and recommendations that were compared to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Risk-Integrated System of Cleanups (RISC) guidelines.

In their report, they note that the site, which is the former OmniSource property on 1610 North Calhoun Street, consists of about 28 acres of land. It’s bordered by North Clinton Street, West 4th Street, North Calhoun Street and North Harrison street. The mostly vacant land land is covered with gravel and is overgrown with grass weeds. wire, old car parts and other metal and plastic debris were visible scattered across the surface.

AVANT/IWM provided a historical review of the property, in which they report the site has been commercially developed since at least 1902. Over the years the site has been a railroad yard, truck and automobile repair facility, an oil company and a metal processing scrap yard. Details concerning the usage and disposal of hazardous substances and petroleum products by the site occupants were not readily available.

Four spill incidents were reported on the site between 1989 and 2002. The substances spilled were oil, caustic soda, chromate cleaning solution and petroleum. No active investigations of these spills are underway and documentation of the cleanup of these spills was not readily available.

The report states in 1998, sampling of the the surface soil found total petroleum hydrocarbons concentrations exceeded the IDEM RISC Residential Default Closure Levels (RDCLs). In 2000, concentrations of lead, argon, cadmium, and mercury, as well as polychlorinated biphenylss, exceeded their respective RDCLs.

The report states in 2005, volatile organic compounds and semi-volotile organic compounds were found in the soild and groundwater beneath the facility. Available documents indicate the full extent of contamination was not determined.

Several other soil and groundwater contaminants were noted which are now considered Historical Recognized Environmental Conditions, which means that they are no longer at hazardous levels.

Leatherman said the environmental clean up shouldn’t cost more than $250,000. Barranda said he’d be shocked if didn’t cost much more than that.