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Neighbors raise concerns about apartment proposal near contaminated property in Shelbyville

Back in 2006, soil testing revealed a serious danger at Tompkins Street and River Road.

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. — Neighbors in Shelbyville reached out to 13 Investigates with contamination concerns.

They fear a proposed housing development would be built too close to land laced with chemicals.

Right near a property declared unlivable for over a decade, developers are proposing "The Plant," a 168-unit apartment complex with studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The project has Carrie Ridgeway very worried. She's concerned about contamination across the street.

"This is where the apartments used to be, right over there," Ridgeway pointed out. "Those people were given a 30-day notice and had to move out. Now, do you want to move your family, your children to go outside and play when … that's in the ground?"

Back in 2006, soil testing revealed a serious danger at Tompkins Street and River Road.

"They had hazmat suits on, I mean… it was bad," Ridgeway said.

RELATED: Contaminated soil forces some Shelbyville residents out

The land under people's homes, it turned out, had been laced with chemicals for decades. Dozens were forced to move immediately. Their apartments and houses were torn down.

"There were dangerous chemicals: benzine, lead, arsenic, cyanide," Ridgeway said.

Duke Energy discovered the contamination back then, on the former site of a manufactured gas plant. 13 Investigates confirmed that in the years since, the company brought the property up to current environmental standards.

IDEM approved the remediation efforts in 2016. Although nothing else can be built on that property again. The land will remain a field, with soil undisturbed.

Still, when neighbors learned about the apartment complex proposed across the street, many worried about safety.

Credit: WTHR

Concern grew among neighbors on social media. Ridgeway brought her concerns to 13 Investigates.

"My concern is – how bad is it in this area and why would we want to put humans in an area where we know is risky," she said.

Shelbyville's planning commission has heard from neighbors.

"I can certainly see where they'd be concerned, yes," said Shelbyville deputy planning director Allan Henderson.

RELATED: EPA lays out plan to clean up Franklin contamination; public comment period extended

But Henderson said the developer, Birge and Held, is making sure the site is safe.

"The developer, if they're going to invest money into this project, they'll do their due diligence. At this point in time, nothing has been identified in proximity to that site," Henderson said. "They had to do soil borings on the site and they did multiple locations on the site and tested the soil and all of that came back clean."

The limited testing investigation performed, he said, gives him confidence.

"I think we're safe, yes," he said.

The planning commission will vote on site development approval, the second phase in the approval process, at their meeting July 18.

Meanwhile, neighbors hope the old chemicals nearby aren't too close for comfort.

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