Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 10, 2014

Another View: Cleaner environment will boost image

Brownfield projects repair damaged sites

In Terre Haute, the difference is becoming apparent between responsible stewardship of the environment and a look-the-other-way attitude about dumping harmful materials.

The conversion of several “brownfield” sites shows the community’s natural potential. A brownfield is a parcel of land that cannot be used or developed until hazardous substances left on the property get cleaned up. Terre Haute has tackled several brownfield revivals in recent years, including two that made news last week. The actions send a signal. A community once branded with an unpleasant environmental reputation (mostly for its formerly odoriferous air) is changing for the better.

“Even though we have problems, people know we are doing something about them,” said Pat Martin, city planner.

City officials, joined by those from the state, gave a final inspection of the remediated site of the former Terre Haute Coke and Carbon plant on Tuesday. The $7 million project began more than a decade ago, when environmental testing revealed high levels of lead, benzo(a)pyrene, naphthalene, toluene and arsenic - substances used in the production of coke, a solid coal residue. The factory operated for decades and into the 1980s. With the mess left behind, the southeast corner of 13th and Hulman streets sat idle, useless. The city Department of Redevelopment purchased the property in 2004, and the long rehabilitation process began.

Its completion last week meant the site will go on the market and the property can return to the city’s tax rolls.

On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began a cleanup of contaminants on 39 acres of donated land along the Wabash River. Nearly 3,500 tons of soil, tainted by high levels of lead, must be removed before the city can use the acreage to house a floatable control structure for Terre Haute’s stormwater sewer system.

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