The chair of the Indiana Transportation Museum Inc. Board of Directors calls accusations of improper care of hazardous chemicals at the museum's location in Noblesville's Forest Park a "complete surprise." John McNichols says museum officials have not been contacted by the city or the Noblesville Parks Department about the issue.

McNichols says the museum was not aware of any problems until the city issued a news release this week, stating an inspection of the grounds found "serious issues" with the outside storage of fluids and other items that could pose an environmental risk. The city has requested that ITM complete immediate containment measures within 60 days and develop a plan for permanent removal of the contamination within 90 days. 

In a statement released Thursday, McNichols says Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear canceled a meeting with new ITM leaders scheduled for Wednesday "where this could have been discussed and resolved." He says, while there haven't been any complaints or violations registered with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, ITM's leadership has pledged full cooperation with the IDEM to resolve any environmental issues.

McNichols adds the accusations are an attempt by local political leaders to "reduce the significant public outcry" against plans by the Noblesville and Fishers to replace nine miles of the Nickel Plate Rail Line with a walking and biking trail.

You can read McNichols' full statement below:

The pronouncement by the City of Noblesville and the Noblesville Parks Department about alleged environmental issues at the Indiana Transportation Museum site comes to us as a complete surprise. It is significant that Mayor Ditslear’s office cancelled a meeting scheduled for this morning (Wednesday, 5/31) with new ITM leaders where this could have been discussed and resolved. We were not aware of their concerns until the city’s news release and we have not been contacted by city officials.

This is another example of local political leaders’ unwillingness to work with the ITM and its new leadership to resolve differences. This latest release is simply another trumped up charge to reduce the significant public outcry against the cities of Fishers and Noblesville to rip up the rails.

The ITM has been in Forest Park since the 1970s. The site is a maintenance facility for vintage locomotives and other railroad historic artifacts. Museum maintenance personnel store and handle fuels and lube oils in the maintenance and operation of equipment. There are no known violations on the park property. To the best of our knowledge there have been no violations or complaints registered with IDEM. ITM pledges full cooperation with IDEM and their contractors to resolve any issues. Our new ITM management and staff will be addressing possible ground contamination issues with Hamilton County and IDEM to establish a plan to resolve any issues.

The Indiana Transportation Museum continues to believe in the economic and historic benefits of the Museum’s Nickel Plate trains and the entertainment, dreams and memories they offer. Our trains, crews and track have been certified by the Federal Railroad Administration and we continue to be bewildered at the opposition local leaders have to a true community asset.