Environmental protections hike airport expansion cost

2013-05-17T15:28:00Z 2013-05-18T19:17:04Z Environmental protections hike airport expansion costBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Gary/Chicago International Airport's expansion project is facing mounting costs, but officials say it can still be completed within its current $166 million budget.

Earlier this week, Frank Deveau, a lawyer representing the airport on environmental matters, told the airport authority that regulators are pushing for added projects they contend are needed to protect the environment.

Deveau said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants the airport to build an underground dike to contain pollution it believes is seeping off airport property, something that could necessitate buying more property south of the airport.

"That's a very serious issue we are still in negotiations about," Deveau said.

The airport has proposed a less expensive solution. That would be an underground dike, called a slurry wall, that would be built only on property the airport currently owns. That would cost about $405,000 Deveau said.

The southern parcel the EPA wants the airport to buy is believed be heavily polluted because it was once a dumping ground for sludge from the bottoms of large fuel storage tanks.

Airport Interim Director Steve Landry said the airport's hand in negotiations is not weakened by the fact it faces a deadline of the end of this year for completing the expansion project.

"That's always been part of the mix with this project," he said Friday. "It has always been an issue of deadline and project constraints."

Despite all of the environmental items potentially to be added to the expansion project checklist, project manager Scott Wheeler believes they can be paid for out of contingency funds that are part of the overall expansion budget.

The EPA also wants testing for pollutants done on a railroad embankment at the end of the airport's main runway that is slated for demolition within months, Deveau said. If contaminants are found there, it could add to the cost of the demolition.

Airport officials already have conceded they will need to remove and pay for disposal of a large pile of polluted soil deposited on the south side of the airport property as part of the expansion project.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice also are involved in the negotiations. The Justice Department's involvement is tied to the Conservation Chemical site at the end of the main runway, which was an EPA Superfund site.

That site will also have to be excavated and the soil hauled to a special disposal facility.

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