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Crews begin fencing off tainted Evansville site

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) – Crews are erecting a fence around a contaminated former industrial complex in Evansville to keep people, particularly children, from venturing onto the site.

A fencing company began work Wednesday at the former Miller Plating & Metal Finishing property, an abandoned 7-acre site that’s covered with debris and basins of murky water.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke’s office said that company was dispatched after a deal was reached Tuesday to fence the property, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

Taxpayers footed the cost of a $1.4 million surface waste cleanup after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found hazardous wastes were left behind after Miller Plating closed in 2007, the newspaper has reported. It also obtained EPA documents through an open records request that showed the EPA found tens of thousands of gallons of hazardous wastes, some containing combustible and flammable substances, stored at the site in 2008.

Building Commissioner Ben Miller said the newspaper’s stories had drawn the city’s attention.

“We were really concerned that there were a lot of people who were going to come and continue to dump on the site,” he said.

Evansville’s move reverses an earlier decision by the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Building Commission, which deemed the cost of fencing – as much as $50,000 – too high for property the city doesn’t own. Property records show the site is owned by a dissolved limited liability corporation.

Commission members said they believed an insurer-funded demolition of buildings in 2013 at the site was enough to stem crime there, but the property had remained open to area children and others attracted by the large empty space. It long had been a focus of complaints from people living on the northwest side of town.

City Councilman John Friend, a Democrat who had considered challenging Winnecke in this year’s mayoral election, said the administration had little choice but to fence the property.

“Politically, when you think about it, it’s not a smart thing to do to turn your back on public safety,” Friend said.

The site still must undergo an Indiana Department of Environmental Management-led below-ground cleanup that’s in the planning stages.