The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

April 16, 2013

EPA officials hope environmental fix at Plant 7 can begin this year

Cost estimated at $4.2 million

ANDERSON, Ind. — Federal environmental officials hope work can begin this year to rebuild a defective underground barrier that was meant to contain contaminated soil and groundwater from migrating off the former Delco Remy Plant 7 property.

“I would hope the field work could be done this year,” said Don Heller, site manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “What we’re trying to accomplish here with this remedy is eliminate a source of groundwater contamination.”

The agency is currently in a public comment period that will extend until May 23.

Built in 1940 and expanded several times over the next several decades, Plant 7, 2900 S. Scatterfield Road, manufactured auto parts such as horns, light switches, turn signals and aluminum castings for alternators, distributors and starter motors.

General Motors Corp. operated a degreaser at the plant for 10 years using chemical trichloroethene, or TCE, which EPA classifies as a carcinogen.

The plant was demolished in 1996; its foundation and concrete slab were removed in 2004. During an environmental assessment, officials discovered the TCE and GM agreed to implement a cleanup plan.

In 2006, federal officials approved construction of an underground clay barrier structure to contain the hazardous material.

Subsequent testing showed the barrier leaked and that groundwater was flowing through gaps in the north and east sections of the containment barrier. Monitoring and the evaluation of ways to correct the problem continued until June 2009, when GM declared bankruptcy.

By that time, ownership of the property had transferred to the Anderson Redevelopment Commission for commercial or industrial reuse. Over the next two years, EPA worked with the city to find a solution. Anderson is responsible for repairing the environmental problem, which will involve rebuilding the containment barrier and injecting chemical agents into the ground to break down the TCE. The cost will be $4.2 million, according to EPA estimates, and will be financed through a special trust fund created during GM’s bankruptcy.

Although a plume of TCE has extended off-site beneath a commercial and residential area, EPA officials said it is not at levels that endanger human health and the environment.

“I think everybody would like to see this cleaned up and cleaned up properly,” said Ann Marie Bauer, attorney for the Redevelopment Commission.

One new wrinkle that now exists for the proposed remedy are plans for construction of the Mounds Lake Reservoir on White River, which is located about three-quarters of a mile from the Plant 7 site.

Haller said he wasn’t aware of any plans for a reservoir until someone entered a public comment about it.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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