Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials are drafting regulations that will govern land and water use at the contaminated former Continental Steel plant site in Kokomo.
When Continental Steel went bankrupt in 1986, its plant in Kokomo was left a mess. Regulators discovered that decades’ worth of industrial waste, dumped in a former quarry and other locations on the 183-acre property, had polluted the groundwater and soil with heavy metals and chemicals. Immediate risks to the environment included 56t acres of open pits called acid lagoons.
$40 million and 26 years of slow-but-steady work later, Kokomo City Engineer Carey Stranahan says you would not know the plant just to see it.
“Driving by the quarry site, for the most part, it’s mounded up,” he says. “It looks like a hillside.”
IDEM project manager Jessica Fliss says the groundwater from the site will have to be pumped out and treated for about 30 more years to remove chemicals. And the fish in the nearby creeks are so contaminated, IDEM advises people not to eat them at all.
Fliss says IDEM is working on rules known as restrictive covenants that prohibit certain uses.
“So in this case you can’t build residences on these properties, you can’t install groundwater extraction wells for drinking water purposes, if you’re going to do any excavation you have to submit a soils management plan to the agency,” she says.
Fliss says people who live near the plant already receive city water, which is safe. And, she says, parts of the site will be safe for new industrial use because workers would not spend enough time there for the level of exposure to become dangerous.