Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:

TOWN OF PINES GROUNDWATER PLUME
TOWN OF PINES, IN

Cleanup Activities

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Background

The Pines Groundwater Plume site is located about four miles west of Michigan City and about one mile south of Lake Michigan in Porter County, Indiana.

EPA tested residential drinking water wells in the town of Pines in May 2002, based on high levels of the metals boron and molybdenum found in drinking water wells by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The metals appeared to come from coal combustion by-products, or CCBs, composed primarily of fly ash that was disposed of in a nearby landfill called Yard 520. Other areas in the town were also identified as having CCB materials, including residential yards where fly ash was used as fill material and roads where bottom ash was used as bedding and surface material. CCBs are the result of burning coal to make electricity.

Northern Indiana Public Service Co., Brown, Inc., Ddalt Corp., and Bulk Transport are the companies determined to be responsible for the contamination.

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What Is Being Done to Clean Up the Site?

Private properties with arsenic-contaminated soil are being cleaned up. Excavated soil is being hauled off-site to a licensed landfill for proper disposal.  Air is also routinely monitored to ensure the dust is kept at a “protective” level. 

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What Is the Current Site Status?

Private properties with high levels of arsenic-contaminated soil continues to be cleaned up.  Soil, which will be excavated and hauled off-site to a licensed landfill for proper disposal, resumed the week of April 17.  Routine air monitoring will also continue to ensure that dust is kept at a “protective” level.  This work is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, but other Pines properties may be sampled upon request.  Property owners wishing to have their soil tested for arsenic may contact EPA Remedial Project Manager Erik Hardin. (hardin.erik@epa.gov)

The high levels of arsenic were discovered in 2015.  Town hall property has been cleaned up and new equipment was added to the playground before it re-opened.

Cleanup of contaminated properties will continue this year under a 2016 legal agreement between EPA and NIPSCO.  EPA expects that most, if not all, properties with high levels of arsenic contamination from CCBs will be addressed.

The final cleanup plan, which is detailed in a document called the record of decision, is available for public review.  It is dated Sept. 30, 2016.  This, and other site-related documents, can be found by clicking on "administrative records" on this web page. The administrative record is also at the Michigan City Public Library, 100 E. Fourth St.

This final cleanup plan includes:

  • Excavating and disposing of contaminated soil off-site.
  • Implementing deed restrictions to prohibit digging into contaminated soil.
  • Using plants to absorb the groundwater contaminants.
  • Monitoring groundwater.
  • Implementing deed restrictions to prohibit using or installing drinking water wells in certain areas.
  • Discontinuing the requirement to provide bottled water service to homes in areas not affected by groundwater contamination.
  • Requiring additional properties to be sampled at the request of property owners and cleaned up if contamination is found to be above naturally occurring levels.

This plan will protect people and the environment, provide long-term effectiveness, and comply with state and federal environmental regulations.  It can also be easily implemented and is cost-effective.

The estimated cost for this alternative is between $5.6 and $11.9 million. The range is due to not yet knowing the full extent of contamination or number of properties to be cleaned up.

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EPA’s Involvement at the Site

NIPSCO and its contractors investigated and sampled more than 100 properties in the town of Pines since May 2015. These samples were evaluated to determine if the soil has high levels of arsenic, thallium, and lead from coal ash.  EPA also took soil samples for analysis to confirm NIPSCO’s findings. Property owners who have since requested that their yards be sampled were included.  Other Pines properties may be sampled upon request.  (Contact the EPA community involvement coordinator, on-scene coordinator or remedial project manager.) Shortly after work plans and legal agreements with NIPSCO were finalized, the company started to clean up coal ash in soil on properties where high levels of arsenic were found.  This work began the week of June 6 and should take about a year to complete.

Because the playground near the town hall is one of the areas with high arsenic levels, the equipment has been removed.

Last year, EPA and NIPSCO discovered higher-than-normal levels of arsenic in soil samples taken at seven properties in 2014. This was most likely caused by fly ash from coal combustion which was used as landscaping fill throughout the town in the 1970s. Since then, NIPSCO has been in communication with EPA, as well as each of the property owners, about the results and to discuss the next steps. The properties sampled were selected by EPA and the local community group People in Need of Environmental Safety (PINES) as part of a continuing investigation to assess the presence of coal ash.  Shortly after the high arsenic levels were discovered, efforts were made to begin sampling additional properties thought to have fly ash.

The sampling that lead to the discovery of high arsenic levels began in spring 2014 to determine if coal ash caused high radiation levels. The testing, which was overseen by EPA, was done with the homeowners’ permission.  It involved a general scan of several dozen yards followed by more detailed sampling and analysis of nine properties.  A member of the PINES group took a sample at each of these properties as well, and those samples were analyzed by an EPA lab.  The results of all testing showed that radiation was not a concern.  The results of the general radiation scans can be found in a summary table in the Administrative Record or document collection (click on them in the lower right-hand side of this web page.) Results from the more detailed scans are available upon request.

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Emergency Response and Removal

EPA expects that most, if not all, properties with soil contamination resulting from coal ash used as landscaping fill in the 1970s will be addressed by a second EPA action under an April 2016 legal agreement with NIPSCO. The company is required to do this work separately from the cleanup plan for the groundwater plume. This cleanup work started the week of June 6.

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