Long-time residents of Terre Haute will remember the expansive, empty lot at the corner of 13th and Hulman streets as the site of the Terre Haute Coke and Carbon Plant. Once the location of heavy industry including gas storage tanks, a power plant and large coal burning ovens, the site is now dormant and has sat untouched since 1988.
However the ground remains full of lethal contaminants such as arsenic and lead – byproducts from years of burning high-sulfur coal that was shipped in on rail lines from around the Midwest.
In an attempt to make the site viable once again, the city has hired HIS Constructors Inc. of Indianapolis to re-mediate 20 acres of the land.
City engineer Pat Martin says reclaiming the entire 52-acre area would have been too expensive, so they picked the most attractive option for cleanup.
“The area we selected was primarily focused on maximizing our return on our investment as quickly as possible,” Martin says. He sees the location of the site along major north-south and east-west corridors as something new businesses could use to their advantage.
Total costs for the project are expected to exceed $7 million – with disposal of the contaminated soil from the site accounting for more than half of the price tag.
Money for the project is coming from a loan obtained by the Terre Haute Sanitary District – money originally designated for the city’s combined sewer overflow retrofit. Martin says the loan could be used because cleanup of the site also helps the clarity of the city’s ground water.
Martin says the engineering department will be overseeing the entire project, including conducting on-site testing in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Management.
Department of Redevelopment Executive Cliff Lambert says the city, which took ownership of the property in 2010, is looking to sell the property outright to investors interested in developing light-industrial or commercial business.
“The bottom line is we want to get this property back on the tax roles to assist with the ongoing development of the project and the neighborhood in general,” Lambert says.
Lambert is hopeful that once the mitigation is complete, new economic opportunities for the site and the surrounding neighborhood will follow, but he acknowledges the city will probably never see a full return on its investment.
“I don’t know that we will ever recoup the $7-plus million, but I think we will go a long way towards having a very positive economic impact,” he says.
The city expects the project to start within 45-60 days and take approximately eight months to complete.