THE PINES | A study of radiation levels in The Pines requested by concerned citizens and area environmental activists will come sometime early this year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Matthew Ohl, project remedial manager for the U.S. EPA, outlined the plans for the study in a letter to Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Director of Environmental Programs Kathy Luther dated Dec. 21.
Ohl's letter said NIPSCO, Brown, Inc., Ddalt Cop. and Bulk Transport Corp. submitted a feasibility study proposing sampling in "certain residential yards in the Town of Pines."
The move came in response to concerns raised by NIRPC's Environmental Management Policy Committee following a presentation in November by Paul Kysel and Larry Jensen of PINES, People in Need of Environmental Safety.
Jensen, a former EPA employee and self-described "radiation expert," conducted his own study which led his group to believe radiation levels in the town are elevated.
As a result, NIRPC's environmental committee agreed to draft a letter to the U.S. EPA asking for a study of radiation levels in the Pines. The issue is set for discussion at today's 9 a.m. NIRPC environmental committee meeting.
The PINES group believes coal ash from a facility in the town, which was used as fill in roads there, could be causing elevated radiation levels. The Pines is home to a landfill operated by Brown Inc. and holds about 1 million tons of fly ash created by NIPSCO's burning of coal in its power plants.
The facility was cited in 2000 by the EPA for contaminating drinking water and was deemed a Superfund site.
The letter said samples from residential yards are expected to be collected early this year after the potentially responsible parties get permission from property owners and evaluate background samples.
"The sampling activities should help resolve many of the concerns expressed by some residents," Ohl said in the letter.
Paul Kysel, a Pines resident who was among those spearheading the push for the study, said Wednesday he is skeptical about the move.
"On the surface, wow, that's great, but it doesn't quite get there," Kysel said.
Kysel said Jensen's study found most areas in town do not have elevated radiation levels but those that do are significantly elevated. The EPA disputed those claims at the November NIRPC environmental committee meeting.
"If you just walk into a sampling of residential properties, the chances of them getting a sample, finding it hot and doing further study are not probable," Kysel said.
Kysel said the PINES group is asking The Pines Town Council to send a letter to the EPA asking any study conducted use the same methodology as his organization's.
Nick Meyer, spokesman for NIPSCO, said the utility is in the process of evaluating additional background samples taken over the last two months.
"If the results suggest additional sampling is required, we'll let everyone know," Meyer said.