RICHMOND, Ind. — The United States Environmental Protection Agency will begin cleaning up the site of a large industrial fire in Richmond, Indiana, next month.
According to a press release from the City of Richmond, officials will begin to remove hazardous waste at two F Street properties involved in the My Way Trading warehouse fire that took place in April.
In a report released in August, the EPA noted that it detected lead and benzene when it investigated the scene of the fire.
The cleanup will cost about $2.8 million and also address compounds like asbestos-containing material, lead and antimony, according to the EPA.
The properties being cleaned up are located at 310 and 358 NW F St. The EPA’s investigation determined that other properties involved in the fire “did not demonstrate compounds requiring EPA cleanup,” according to the City of Richmond.
The EPA will move heavy machinery into the area for the cleanup next week. The main portion of cleaning will start in November, per the City of Richmond.
“The City of Richmond’s top priority is protecting our residents,” Mayor Dave Snow said in a release. “The EPA’s cleanup operation is an essential step towards ensuring their safety and the environmental health of our community. We will continue to work closely with the EPA as we move forward in addressing this unfortunate incident.”
In its release, the City of Richmond also clarified that the EPA issued a liability letter to Cornerstone Trading Group with regard to the fire. City officials have indicated that they did not receive a liability letter from the EPA.
The city’s administration stated that Cornerstone “declined to pursue the cleanup” of the site. The EPA will instead finance the project with federal funding, per the City of Richmond’s release.
Officials reported that the city is pursuing legal action against Cornerstone for the costs it has incurred to extinguish, investigate and clean up the fire.
The fire broke out on April 11 and burned plastics located on the properties for days. An evacuation order was put in the place for area residents because of the fire. The order was lifted on April 16.
Since the fire broke out, some Richmond residents filed a lawsuit against the facility’s ownership group, asking for payment for punitive damages totaling more than $25,000. The lawsuit alleges the facility’s unsafe working conditions contributed to the outbreak of the fire.
The City of Richmond and the EPA did not provide a timeline for the cleanup. Officials did not indicate when the project will be completed.
City officials reported that the hazardous materials due to be removed from Cornerstone’s properties will not be placed in local landfills. The waste will be transported to appropriate hazardous disposal sites, per the City of Richmond’s release.
Richmond residents, including Debbie Bond, said that while initial reactions to the fire were good the cleanup has been less efficient.
“The progress of them putting out the fire was good but as far as cleaning up the mess now, nobody has even been over there,” Bond said. “It’s like they put the fire out and just left it.”
Another resident named Eddie Swank agreed.
“I think it is about time to be honest. It needs to be cleaned up. People are still breathing this stuff, still floating around in the air, I am sure of it,” he said. “I believe it has taken too long. I don’t know what they are doing, sitting back in their office and twiddling their thumbs.”
In addition to the potential health impacts that Swank mentioned, other residents said the debris makes Richmond look less desirable.
“It needs to be cleaned up. It’s an eyesore,” said resident Brenda Jerrell. “I hope it is cleaned up and done in an orderly fashion cause you can make a mess out of a mess.”