INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - On the south side of Indianapolis sits a 100-year-old landmark that once employed four generations of families.
The old Indianapolis Coke and Gas plant shut down in 2007, but now I-Team 8's Karen Hensel looks at the environmental scars that could long be the plant's legacy.
For the first time since it closed, 24-Hour News 8's cameras went behind the fence and into the Coke plant. In a story only on 24-Hour News 8, we have the first look behind the walls as we question why six years later testing is still being done with no solid answers.
ON THE INSIDE
Most never get beyond the fence surrounding the Coke plant. This is the first time cameras have been allowed since the plant closed. Once inside John Harvard, manager of Technical and Environmental programs at Citizens Gas holds out two large chunks of black explaining, "This is the coke Indianapolis Coke produced."
A geologist nearby is collecting soil samples. As we walk along with the environmental firm hired and paid for by Citizens Energy, Geoff Glanders of August Mack is our tour guide saying, "This is one of the core areas within the Coke plant."
For 100 years, the coke plant manufactured the type of fuel by heating coal to 1,800 degrees for 30 hours. The by-product is toxic including benzene, naphthalene, methanol, phenol, xylene, cyanide.
I-Team 8's Karen Hensel questions, "How common would it be that went into the ground or water?"
Glanders responds, "There would be some and we are checking to see if that is in the ground."
DON'T FORGET US
Nearby, sitting on a porch swing Marti Lamar says, "There are real people here. Don't forget us."
Lamar lives five blocks from the former plant. She and her neighbors lived through problems before the plant closed and during demolition of the gas holder tank.
Lamar recalls, "I would open the door and then have to go back inside because the smell was so strong."
The contractor hired by citizens said the smell came from the chemical napthalene. In a public meeting in August 2012, Glanders, President of August Mack Environmental told the neighbors, "While there is naphthalene present, it is not present at levels that represent a health threat."
Napthalene at certain levels isn't banned, but is considered cancer-causing . Even China bans the use of it in mothballs
From air pollution to storm water runoff, neighbors worry about what's still in the ground at and near the plant.
Pleasant Run Creek runs right next to the plant. So, we set out to document potential hazards. Lamar and others have documented black gunk she says was coming "right out of this storm drain right there."
It's a storm drain that runs right into the creek. She's not sure where it comes from but can see the black stains on the wall and showed orange and a thick white gooey substance nearby.
Dick Van Frank says, "There is certainly a health threat with Pleasant Run."
He is a retired Lilly scientist, current president of Improving Kids Environment and an environmental watchdog. Standing just outside the plant he says, "Just down in that direction less than a block if you dig into the soil you discover a band of black material. My concern was is there contamination in the sediment in Pleasant Run so I took my shovel and some bottles."
He dug into the soil and documented it with pictures.
BACK INSIDE THE PLANT
Back inside the plant, Karen questions "This is going to be one of your hot spots."
Glanders nods saying, "This is the area in most coke plants you do find impacts."
"Impacts" such as coal tar full of toxins.
Glanders says, "If Citizens or future developers were to put structures there that material would have to be removed. If it is going to be a parking area or something like that IDEM would allow that to be covered and remain in place."
I-Team 8 has obtained documents showing the most recent testing found benzene, cyanide and naphthalene, that chemical that caused the smell last summer, in groundwater samples. Just in recent months the state, Indiana Department of Environmental management, required Citizens to test for even more toxins in the soil by the creek.
Glanders explained, "We are compiling all that information to determine if there are hot spots that need to be abated or remediated."
There has been a lot of testing and monitoring. But for neighbors, not a lot of answers.
Karen then questions, "Why is this taking so long? This plant shut down in 2007. We are at 2013. What takes so long to figure out what is here?" Glanders says, "This is a complicated site. What takes long is trying to figure out a decent sampling and analysis plan and ultimately remediation plan."
Our expert understands working with thousands of samples takes time, but worries what the final results will show. He says their worst nightmare is to have to do a clean up of Pleasant Run Creek.
He explains, "They don't want to get into it because it would be be very very expensive for them."
Sitting on the front porch, Lamar says "We don't want to be left with the legacy of the toxins being covered up."
The health of Pleasant Run Creek is important because it feeds into the White River. Citizens is working with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in a voluntary remediation plan for the 146 acre plant.
While so much testing is going on at the plant, what about what's in the yards of the neighbors? That's one of the big issues that has come up during this investigation for neighbors.
Citizens says Marion County Health should do the testing, but Marion County health says they don't test yards as part of an environmental investigation.
That leaves the neighbors with even fewer answers.
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