PORTAGE | The head of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission's environmental committee claimed victory Thursday with the EPA's plan to study radiation levels in The Pines.
"We have basically accomplished what we attempted to and the strength and the power is with all these minds in this room," Geof Benson, chairman of the NIRPC Environmental Management Policy Committee and town council president in Beverly Shores, said at Thursday's meeting.
"We brought it up for all these smart people and newspapers to bring attention to it and get something done without having to go to the full commission and to me, that's a win."
In November, a member of PINES, People in Need of Environmental Safety, presented the committee with a study conducted by one of its members, Larry Jensen, of coal ash in the community. Jensen, a former EPA employee and self-described "radiation expert" said the study showed elevated levels of radiation that he and his group believe warrants a study by the EPA.
The NIRPC environmental committee agreed to draft a letter to the EPA asking for a study, which was up for a vote at Thursday's meeting. But Kathy Luther, director of environmental programs for NIRPC, received a letter from the EPA dated Dec. 21 saying a study will be conducted early this year.
The study will be conducted by NIPSCO, Brown, Inc., Ddalt Corp. and Bulk Transport Corp. The companies were identified by the EPA as potentially responsible parties after The Pines' water was contaminated by coal ash from a landfill holding more than 1 million tons of fly ash created by NIPSCO's burning of coal ash. The landfill was deemed a Superfund site.
Kay Nelson, director of environmental programs for the Northwest Indiana Forum, made a motion for the committee to hold the letter to the EPA pending the outcome of the study. The motion passed with environmentalist Charlotte Read and Town of Pines Council Member Cathi Murray voting against it.
"I would expect EPA and The Pines to keep us informed of how this proceeds and if is doesn't, we still have this letter," Benson said.
Paul Kysel of PINES said he does not see the study as much of a victory, saying he is concerned about the methodology that will be used by NIPSCO and Brown Inc. to conduct the study.
"We haven't been impressed with their science to date," Kysel said.
At Wednesday night's Pines Town Council Meeting, the PINES group presented a letter to the EPA asking for specific scientific guidelines for the study. The council agreed to present the letter to the EPA with Town Council President George Adey's signature attached.