Superfund process begins in Hammond, Whiting
City officials in Whiting and Hammond say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to formally designate the former Federated Metals Corp. complex in Hammond a Superfund site, an arduous process that could take up to 12 years to complete. Testing conducted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has revealed the presence of high levels of lead and arsenic.
The industrial site operated for about 50 years with various smelting, refining and recycling facilities on the property.
While the campus is located in Hammond, properties in neighboring Whiting were contaminated as well.
“The EPA has acknowledged that the process of testing, creating and approving a plan, and obtaining funding to do the clean-up will be a multi-year process and could take anywhere from seven to 12 years,” the cities said in a joint statement. “The cities are committed to pressing the EPA to be expedient in its actions and to complete their clean-up as soon as possible.”
In 2016, the site was referred to EPA’s Superfund Removal Program to investigate potential contamination in the surrounding neighborhood. Sediment sampling at Lake George also revealed the presence of high levels of lead which may be impacting wildlife, according to the EPA and IDEM.
Initial soil testing that started seven years ago indicated contamination. The cities say the heaviest damage was found north of the facility in Hammond, but “due to wind patterns, a large swath of midtown Whiting was discovered to have been contaminated as well.”
The cities say approximately 700 properties fell within the outfall of the contamination – almost 600 of said properties being located in Whiting.
“I want to make it clear to our residents that this [Superfund] Designation means the EPA will be in complete control of the process moving forward and this process will be a lengthy one,” said Whiting Mayor Steve Spebar. “Additional testing must be done to determine the firm boundaries of the Superfund site. Once the Designation is formally approved by the EPA, the remediation process will begin to unfold.
The cities say the EPA conducted an initial emergency cleanup of 33 properties. Residents living in those properties included pregnant women and children under the age of eight, and soil tests revealed high levels of the dangerous heavy metals. The cities say they have not been “presented with any evidence of adverse health effects on our residents.”
City leaders say Hammond paid for remediation of four dozen properties and another 30 will be addressed this year. However, Mayor Spebar says the city of Whiting does not have the budget to follow Hammond’s lead.
“We will also work with the City of Whiting to look for other sources of funds available to assist with the remediation in both cities,” said Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott. “I know that Mayor Spebar, just as I do, wants to find solutions to this problem as quickly as possible for our residents.”
The EPA is accepting public comments on the proposed Superfund site until May 30. Learn more by clicking this link to the Federal Register.