THE PINES — Work to clean up 13 sites here contaminated with arsenic, thallium and lead will begin this spring, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials announced Thursday.
The EPA announced an enforceable agreement was reached with Northern Indiana Public Service Co. to clean up contaminated soil at 12 residential properties and one municipal property near The Pines.
According to the EPA, NIPSCO will hire a contractor to conduct the cleanup and will pay all cleanup costs. Officials on Thursday did not immediately have a cost estimate for the project.
The issue of contamination came to light in May 2002 when the Indiana Department of Environmental Management tested drinking water wells in The Pines and found high levels of the metals boron and molybdenum. The metals in the groundwater appeared to come from coal combustion by-products, or CCBs, composed primarily of fly ash that was disposed of in a nearby landfill called Yard 520, according to the EPA.
The ash had been used as fill in residential yards as well as road projects. CCBs are the result of burning coal to generate electricity.
In 2003 and 2004, NIPSCO, Brown, Inc., Ddalt Corp., and Bulk Transport, the companies determined to be responsible for the contamination, agreed to provide municipal water to about 270 homes in and near the Town of Pines, according to the EPA.
Jacob Hassan, on-scene coordinator for the EPA, said mini excavators will primarily be used to remove soil that has been identified as contaminated in residents’ yards and at the Town Hall.
Hassan said plans call for 3 feet of soil to be removed. An orange filter fabric will be placed in the affected area and clean topsoil will be brought in to restore residents’ properties.
The contaminated soil will be taken to EPA-approved landfills.
Hassan said local residents should expect to see a lot of truck traffic when work begins.
NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said the company has been in contact with affected property owners for more than a year.
“It’s a a great step forward not only for property owners affected but also the entire Town of Pines as a whole as we move forward with this clean up activity,” Meyer said.
Meyer said now that the agreement is in place, work can begin this spring. He said they hope to have the work completed by the end of the year.
Meyer said every effort will be made to keep disruptions to residents’ lives to a minimum, but a number of residents may need to find other living arrangements for a couple of weeks.
“But the goal is to remove affected soil and replace it, and get their lives back to normal.”