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Friday, September 23, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "Polluted Indy golf course could cost taxpayers $6M"

Some quotes from this long, front page story by Brian Eason in today's Indianapolis Star:

For decades, the concoction of trash, industrial chemicals and sewage sludge buried near the Whispering Hills Golf Course was out of sight, out of mind — and, as far as Indiana environmental regulators were concerned, contained.

That is, until recently. In April 2014, an Indiana Department of Environmental Management site inspection discovered the landfill cap had eroded due to natural wear and tear, compromising a critical barrier designed to prevent the toxins from escaping.

Now, Indy Parks may have to pony up as much as $6 million to install new protections for the contamination at the old Julietta Landfill, a longtime industrial dumpsite on the southeast side that the city converted into the public golf course in the early 1990s. * * *

A former pig farm, the property was leased in the 1950s to a sand and gravel company. The mining operation left huge pits in the ground when it abandoned the site in the early 1960s, and residents began dumping their household waste there illegally, according to IDEM records.

Later that decade, it was leased to a private landfill operator, and served as a dump for commercial and industrial waste until 1976, when the Indiana State Board of Health determined the site’s geology was unsuitable for use as a landfill, and the private operator voluntarily closed it. By that time it had accumulated 2.6 million cubic yards of waste, including industrial chemicals, such as glue and oil.

Later, from 1982 to 1985, the city used it to store more than 16,000 tons of sludge from a municipal wastewater treatment plant — the solid, fertilizer-like substance left over from the sewage treatment process.

And as early as 1988, the city began trying to repurpose it as a golf course.

It's not clear now, from a review of IDEM documents, why the plans went forward. But IDEM regulators warned a city consultant in 1988 that the pollution at the site was so extensive that it was under consideration to be added to the National Priorities List, an Environmental Protection Agency designation that makes it eligible for federal Superfund cleanup dollars.

In 1995 — with a landfill cap and various monitoring protocols in place — Whispering Hills Golf Course opened to the public. But under state law, the parks department, as the landowner, also took on the long-term responsibility to keep what was buried there from getting out.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 23, 2016 10:49 AM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government