By ECI Regional Planning District—
Delaware County, IN— A comprehensive new report on potential industrial contamination in the county’s largest industrial park provides a road map not only for future economic development but aims to provide clarity for elected officials, concerned neighbors and activists.
The 1,900-page report was funded by the Delaware County commissioners in cooperation with the Delaware County Redevelopment Commission and examines what is known about environmental conditions in the Industria Center industrial park.
The concerns of neighbors of the park, especially when it comes to a longtime battery recycling operation, Exide Technologies, have been in the headlines for years. But other companies with industrial discharge permits have operated in the area for decades.
Some neighbors, former neighbors and community-minded activists who have raised concerns about the potential for contamination in the area praised Delaware County officials for the report.
“I think it’s very thorough,” Sandi Aul said. “I believe the commissioners want to do what the citizens of Delaware County want to do – to support the health and safety of the people who live there.”
Deb Malitz called the environmental review, by Mundell & Associates, “a very exhaustive phase one (study). … We’re very happy the county commissioners agreed to do the work and this report needs to be made available to everybody.”
In the fall of 2019, local officials meet with a Aul, Malitz and others to hear concerns and gather thoughts on what more the County should be doing in the area. Resulting from those meetings, citizen representatives proposed a firm (Mundell & Assoc. of Indianapolis) to engage for purposes of examining the area. At the direction of Commissioner James King, County Redevelopment officials acted on that recommendation and hired Mundell to complete an exhaustive Phase One environmental area assessment report.
The environmental report for a busy industrial area is “an example when you have government and citizens working together, it can mean jobs and more economic development,” Malitz said.
Delaware County Commissioner James King said past attempts to introduce industrial operations, particularly in the city of Muncie, have been marked by failure on the part of some officials to do the due diligence of the Mundell survey of the Industria Center area, but he said the commissioners wouldn’t sacrifice the health of Delaware County residents for economic development.
“We have a responsibility to take care of our environment,” King said. “We all want new businesses to locate here, but we have to take care of our environment and our citizens first.”
Mundell & Associates began the environmental review of the Industria Center in late winter/early spring, said John Mundell, president and senior environmental consultant of the company, and Luke Johnstone, the consulting company’s staff environmental engineer.
Interviews with Aul, Malitz and other concerned neighbors and activists were part of their work, as well as site visits and an intensive study of the history and records of the area, including documents filed with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Such steps are part of a Phase One environmental study.
“This isn’t even a standard Phase One,” Mundell said. “In that case, you’re able to walk the site, get into details of a piece of land and review what happened historically. This study had a much larger geographic territory that we had to consider with multiple histories, regulatory statuses, and potential contaminants of concern.”
Johnstone said the study area covered about 1.63 square miles, or 1,040 acres, with a “search radius maybe a mile beyond that.”
Mundell not only took into account past documents detailing land use, businesses and potential environmental issues but also studied aerial photographs from as early as 1948 and U.S. Geographic Service maps from as early as 1952. City Directories, which list businesses and individuals at specific addresses, were consulted from as early as 1936, but the directories didn’t contain information for the area until 1986.
What did the Mundell survey find? It found the need for “robust sampling plans which would likely expose potential areas of concern” divided into areas that would allow for independent action in each area. That’s in part because of the size of the area and the variety of industries that have operated there.
(By comparison to the 1,040 acres covered in Mundell’s survey, the site of the former Chevrolet plant in the city of Muncie, was just over 60 acres.)
The Mundell report prioritizes the order of sampling and analysis plans (SAPs).
Activities in Phase Two, if a next phase is undertaken, would include air, soil and groundwater sampling.
King said he is in favor of Phase Two studies of the area and likely funding could be approved at an upcoming meeting to authorize the work.
“Residents of the area, and all of Delaware County, have elected officials that care about their community and want to make sure whatever manufacturing comes here, it will be good for our community and healthy for our community,” King said.
Brad Bookout, County Director of Economic Affairs said, “before the Phase Two work begins, we’ve assured the local citizen advisory group that their review and input on the sampling plan is a must. Knowing the importance of this project, we want to remain working closely with them.” “Their help thus far has been invaluable.”
Aul and Malitz have been vocal in their concerns about the potential for air, soil and water pollution in the area and critical of the industries that are polluters.
“When you live in the area, and you’re trying to work in your yard, and you can smell wire burning, they’re smelting communication cables and putting it into the air,” Aul said.
Aul credited the Delaware County commissioners with “sitting down at the table to talk to us” and initiating the Mundell survey and report.
“They’re setting a model for other communities to address the concerns of people,” she said. “I hope it continues to be a good working relationship.”
“So far our interaction with them has been nothing but positive,” Malitz said.
About Mundell & Associates: Since 1995, Mundell & Associates scientists and engineers have dedicated their professional expertise to today’s most challenging environmental projects. Our goal is not just to get the job done, but we work with a special care for our clients, the local community, and the earth. Our scope of services range from risk-based corrective action and Superfund project management to geophysical surveys and water resource studies in a variety of agricultural, commercial and industrial sites throughout the country and also the world. We collaborate with business managers, farmers, lawyers, city planners, and community organizations to understand the problem and find the right solution.
About Delaware County Economic Development: In 2015 the Delaware County Commissioners privatized the County’s economic development activities in conjunction with the ECI Regional Planning District. Since that time, the County has developed business retention and expansion programs that are in constant contact with the multitude of industry within the County. In addition, efforts to identify and attract various suitable industry throughout the world are undertaken on an annual basis. For more information, contact Brad Bookout at firstname.lastname@example.org.