Gary airport will have to move pollution pile

2013-04-08T15:48:00Z 2013-04-08T18:29:03Z Gary airport will have to move pollution pileBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

Environmental regulators have told the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority it must undertake a costly project to haul away contaminated soils uncovered by its runway expansion.

The hauling and disposal project will ensure the new areas of the airport are ready to host development such as a cargo facility, but it will increase costs, project manager Scott Wheeler told the authority at its regular meeting Monday.

However, Wheeler said the overall expansion project should still be able to stay within its $166 million budget.

"The negative is it will cost more money," Wheeler told the authority board at the Airport Administration Building. "But we still believe we can do it in the overall budget we have today."

Earlier this year, Wheeler told the airport authority hauling away just one portion of the polluted soil, a pile of contaminated soil now stored at the southwest end of the airport property, would cost around $3.8 million. At that time he thought that expense would bust the expansion project's $166 million budget.

The Gary Jet Center, a key airport tenant, had protested the plan to keep the pile of polluted soil on airport property. The airport's original expansion plan and master plan called for the area to be cleaned up in order to host a cargo or other airfield facility.

On Monday, Wheeler said the airport now believes funds set aside for contingent risks can be used to pay the increased costs.

In addition to the pollution pile, the airport must haul away highly contaminated soils that were known to cover the former Conservation Chemical property, Wheeler said. The airport had hoped it might be able to simply contain that pollution on site and cap it with the new runway.

In all, the airport must haul away about 100,000 cubic yards of polluted soil, Wheeler said.

That would equate to about 8,000 or more dump truck loads depending on the size of the truck.

The airport has been negotiating its pollution remediation plans with the Indiana Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration.

In part, the cleanup is being driven by FAA regulations that require airport land where its personnel have to work or inspect be cleaned up to residential standards.

Wheeler had some good news for the authority on Monday. The Army Corps of Engineers has granted a permit for locating navigation equipment on protected wetlands. The airport authority approved paying Lake Erie Land Co. $76,500 for wetlands it owns elsewhere in order to satisfy an Army Corps requirement that wetlands degraded be replaced.

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