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 the Current Site Status?

Private properties with high levels of arsenic-contaminated soil have been cleaned up.  First, residents asked EPA to have samples taken of the soil on their properties.  Then, if the results indicated that a cleanup was warranted, EPA oversaw the excavation and removal of the contaminated soil.  Property owners in the town of Pines wishing to have their soil tested for arsenic and other coal ash-related contaminants may still contact EPA Remedial Project Manager Erik Hardin.

The high levels of arsenic were discovered in 2015.  The 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, as needed, under an April 2016 legal agreement between EPA and NIPSCO.

Private properties with high levels of arsenic-contaminated soil have been cleaned up.  First, residents asked EPA to have samples taken of the soil on their properties.  Then, if the results indicated that a cleanup was warranted, EPA oversaw the excavation and removal of the contaminated soil.  Property owners in the town of Pines wishing to have their soil tested for arsenic and other coal ash-related contaminants may still contact EPA Remedial Project Manager Erik Hardin.

The high levels of arsenic were discovered in 2015.  The 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, as needed, under an April 2016 legal agreement between EPA and NIPSCO.

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EPA’s Involvement at the Site

The final cleanup plan for site soil and groundwater includes:

  • Implementing deed restrictions to prohibit digging into contaminated soil.
  • Using plants to remove the groundwater contaminants.
  • Monitoring groundwater.
  • Implementing deed restrictions to prohibit using or installing drinking water wells in certain areas.
  • 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 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.

The cleanup plan is detailed in a document called the record of decision(PDF) (115pp, 16MB, About PDF) which is dated Sept. 30, 2016.  It can be found on this web page in the Administrative Record.

In early 2016, 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.  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.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.

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