EPA monitors contaminated Indianapolis site

The storm drains are full at an abandoned oil processing facility on 79th Street in Pike Township.
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Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Indianapolis - Overflowing storm sewers can't take much more rain. The Environmental Protection Agency is keeping close watch on a contaminated site where toxins have escaped through storm water.

The storm drains are full at an abandoned oil processing facility in Pike Township. Chopper 13 captured trucks lining up to haul out thousands of gallons of toxic waste. With more rain threatening an overflow, the EPA says time is critical.

"We do not want to have this material to flow off site. Every time it snows and rains, we do need to come down to manage the storm water," said Verneta Simon, EPA on-scene coordinator, region 5.

Last October, federal and state authorities discovered tanks of oily waste and sulfuric acid left behind by ESI Environmental after the company filed bankruptcy and left. But inspectors also turned up something more menacing lurking inside Tank 51.

"There is the possibility that one of the tanks still has PCB-contaminated sludge," said Simon.

300,000 gallons of the cancer-causing chemical could be inside the tank.

Neighbors hope for a permanent solution.

"Closed and cleaned up is ideal," said Nancy Rasmussen, who lives within a mile of the facility.

Three ESI directors have pleaded guilty to intentionally violating the clean water act.


The EPA says there is potential for the untreated chemicals to be released into the city's sanitary sewer system. Just months ago the agency learned it's happened twice, caused by runoff from heavy rains. The most recent occurrence was in 2009.

The emergency clean-up has the Marion County Health Department on alert. The contamination is contained right now, but the overflow of storm water from that site has been known to travel nearly six miles away to the Coffin Golf Course, directly across the street to Indy Park's Riverside Golf Course and even into neighboring homes.

The flow was traced six miles north on the other side of town.

The news surprised Nancy Rasmussen.

"It's a little scary. If it's traveled all the way to Riverside, then it's traveled through our property, and we happen to be on a well here, so obviously that's a concern," she said.

The cost of clean-up now is nearly a half-million dollars and rising. The EPA has put 48 companies that discarded waste at ESI on notice to pay the bill.

"Certainly I don't think it should be absorbed by the taxpayers," said Rasmussen.

"We have pumped some of the contents of the tanks out. And we're trying to get the responsible parties to perform a clean up. That's what we're negotiating right now," said Simon.