WHITESTOWN, Ind. (WISH) — The Whitestown Town Council will be voting Wednesday on a multimillion-dollar aquatic center.
It would be built at an old junkyard lot that the state previously said had contaminated soil.
Raising one big question: Is it safe to build on that land? I-Team 8 set out to answer that question.
Whitestown officials told I-Team 8 it took them three years to clean up all the chemicals left behind by the old junkyard and to make sure the ground was safe enough for development.
Nathan Messer, the director of economic development in Whitestown, said, “When everyone talks about the site it’s ‘Oh, it’ll never be used for 100 years. It was an old salvage yard. Oil in the ground.’ Technology and science are at point where we can. It was just a matter of doing it.”
He told I-Team 8 127 wells on the 95 acres tested for harmful chemicals left over by the junkyard. The wells were regularly tested until the levels of chemicals met safety standards set by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which cleared the path for the aquatic center to happen.
Messer said, “I live less than a half mile from here, and I guarantee my kids will be in that water.”
I-Team 8 went to environment geochemist Gabriel Filippelli to see if people in Whitestown should feel safe with the development that will be on ground that used to be contaminated. “Typically when they clear a site for development it’s based on what we agree federally as a safe clearance level. Of course, you can never guarantee that we’ll find new science later on, but, for now, that if they’ve cleared it, then it should be safe to go.”
Messer told I-Team 8 the aquatic center will cost $15 million to build. Town officials don’t know exactly what the aquatic center will look like yet, but he told I-Team 8 it will likely have water slides and a lazy river instead of a lap swimming pool.
“The taxes generated by all the commercial and industrial growth in the area are actually going to pay for this, so the residence will see no increase in taxes.”
The aquatic center is only the beginning.
Messer told I-Team 8 the long-term vision for the lot is to have a soccer field, rec center, housing, restaurants, and office space. Whitestown wants all of those things because it’s rapidly growing.
Messer projects a population growth of 7,000 people in the next seven years for a total of 20,000. “Definitely ‘quality of life,’ that’s a big thing we’re striving for is having amenities that keep people here.”
If the town council approves the plan Wednesday, Messer said, officials are hopeful to have construction beginning later this year and the aquatic center opening in 2025.