The Herald Bulletin

March 20, 2013

Existence of landfills worries reservoir skeptics

Sparks: Eight firms have looked at data

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — When people ask about landfills under Mounds Mall and the shopping center across Scatterfield Road, Rob Sparks is right there with them.

Environmental impact was the second question raised as serious consideration of Mounds Lake Reservoir began taking shape.

“The public is going through the same questioning we went through,” said Sparks, executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Corporation for Economic Development.

The landfill question has been a key issue fueling public skepticism about a proposed reservoir on social media sites, along with concern about businesses and homeowners being displaced.

The proposed reservoir would begin just east of East Lynn and 18th streets in Anderson, backing water up seven miles into Delaware County to around County Road 300 South and South High Banks Road.

Phase I environmental assessments show the landfill sites are small — amounting to perhaps six or seven acres — and consist primarily of construction debris. “I’ve had eight different firms look at the data,” and none have said those sites represent a fatal flaw, Sparks said.

In addition, test wells installed to monitor groundwater quality at former General Motors Corp. sites on Scatterfield Road upstream from the proposed reservoir haven’t revealed any significant problems with pollution.

Although monitoring stopped when GM declared bankruptcy in June 2009, it was reactivated last year under a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Grant to the city of Anderson.

Well samples were evaluated by a firm hired by the EPA, which only knew the information would be used for redevelopment, but not specifically creation of a reservoir, Sparks said.

The city is currently pursuing a second EPA grant to continue more detailed environmental evaluation and monitoring.

Chad Pigg, president and CEO of Sesco Group, and former brownfield coordinator for Anderson, is consulting on the project.

He said more than 700 acres of the proposed 2,100 acres that would become the reservoir was evaluated in the initial study.

Despite Anderson’s automobile manufacturing legacy and the number of brownfield industrial sites, only a small percentage of locations evaluated meet criteria that warrant further investigation in a more thorough phase II feasibility study. Pigg and Sparks said nothing will be taken for granted.

Pigg said some gaps exist in the environmental data that has been collected so far that he wants to see filled.

And Sparks said he wants to see monitor well test results from three or four seasons.

He added, however, that if the landfills were as toxic and polluted as some people fear, evidence of that environmental hazard would have surfaced long before now.

Yet it hasn’t.

That said, Sparks said if the reservoir proposal moves ahead, any mitigation required by state and federal officials as part of a permitting process would be subject to public scrutiny and comment.

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