Neighbors claim New Castle dump a health threat

A dump in New Castle is raising concern among nearby residents.

It's a dumping ground for trash, a breeding ground for diseases, but a playground for some children. That's how some neighbors describe an old industrial site in Henry County.

It is abandoned and filled with debris and old tires and it's putting a neighborhood at risk.

There is nothing like porch time for Thomas Pugh on a beautiful summer day, but just yards away, he says, "it's just piles of rubble, tires with water in them, standing everywhere. Mosquitoes."

It's an eyesore now threatening to become a health hazard for residents of the 25-block Westminster neighborhood. Eddie Hager is concerned too.

"I think the existing property is about five-and-a-half acres," he said, walking and pointing out areas of concern outside of the fence surrounding most of the site. "The kids are coming in from all sides and it's what is considered an attractive nuisance."

Heaps of old tires and charred debris sit abandoned, creating a breeding ground for danger. From ground shots taken by independent photographer Barbara Cross to video from Chopper 13 HD, it's a troubling view.

"There's all kinds of hazards over there. There's boards, nails, glass, there's open pits," Hager explained.

The problem is that ownership of the property keeps changing hands. It's a former Firestone brake plant turned recycling facility that's now an unofficial dump. Not even a fire at the facility forced a cleanup.

Last October, Steven Morehead, a Fort Wayne buyer snatched up the property during a tax sale for just $5,300. But what looked like a steal on paper could bring major headaches.

All of it is now a growing concern with the state's first West Nile Virus case of the season. Those who live here worry they are more at risk.

"He just says he wants to sell it. He has no plans for cleanup and that's where, as a community, we're stuck," added Hager.

"We were not aware of that," said Jammie Bane, the Environmental Health Director for Henry County.

He and a team of inspectors came to see the site for themselves after 13 Investigates made a visit to his office.

"I think we can eradicate the primary concern, mosquitoes breeding and it being a harborage," said Bane.

Henry County ordered chemical pellets and a fogger for the tire heap to combat the immediate threat. The next step could be a county order to clean up the entire site.

13 Investigates' attempts to locate Steve Morehead, the new owner, were unsuccessful. The Henry County Environmental Health director also wants to talk with him about cleaning up the mess in the next 30 days.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has also been notified about the conditions.