EPA funding will help Indy’s leaders test dumping site on ‘Black Mountain’ before redevelopment

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- "Black Mountain" is an eyesore for people living in the near east side, especially those in the Englewood and Christian Park neighborhoods.

The area is the dumping grounds for 200,000 tons of contaminated sand from the former Daimler-Chrysler foundry operations.

The good news about the waste is the city's Department of Metropolitan Development said extensive testing did not find danger for neighbors.

"Most people would assume that it was contaminated," said Emily Mack, director of DMD. "It actually was good fill material."

The 12-acre site located about 3 miles outside downtown has been home to a number of businesses and companies for decades.

"It's had everything from a coal facility to plaster and clay and tile facilities, automobile uses, gas stations," Mack said.

Recently, the dilapidated buildings on the site have been demolished and the property is reduced to rubble, but there are redevelopment plans in the works. Those just cannot begin yet.

"We're going to do a phase one environmental assessment and so that phase one actually tells us what our existing conditions are," Mack explained. "If there's contamination on the site, where that contamination is located and then what we need to do to remediate, or clean up, that site."

The city is paying for phase one through grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA just awarded Indy $600,000 through a Brownfield grant.

These grants pay for cleaning up and assessing abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

"We are a major city, and like most major cities, we do have our fair share of industrial sites," Mack said. "So we were really fortunate to be able to receive these funds from the EPA."

Mack said the EPA money will discover what parts of the property can be used for redevelopment.

"It will help tell us if there's soil contaminated, or if there's groundwater contamination," Mack explained. "So that we can actually go into those specific areas and clean them up so that the site is safe and it's ripe for redevelopment.  It could potentially find if there were hazardous substances or if there were petroleum-based products that were used on that site."

Joe Bowling is the executive director of the Englewood Community Development Corporation. He said it is still up for discussion about what will sit on the property in the future.

"We think that really will remain to be seen what neighbors would like to see happen, what the market will hold and really what are the environmental conditions after some of the cleanup," Bowling said.

Indianapolis is not the only community in central Indiana to receive Brownfields funding. Here's a look at the other grant money awarded in our area by the EPA:

  • City of Kokomo – to investigate the environmental conditions of properties along Wildcat Creek as Kokomo continues to recover from declines in industrial employment, including jobs losses associated with the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies. Kokomo has received three previous Brownfield grants. Redevelopment at sites remediated with Brownfield funds resulted in private investment of nearly $32 million and created nearly 200 jobs associated with the cleanup work. The EPA shows Kokomo received $300,000.
  • City of Lawrence – to investigate sites in economically-distressed South Lawrence to determine whether contamination exists to be remediated before the city can pursue redevelopment. This award marks Lawrence’s second Brownfield grant. Since 2015, 230 jobs have been created or retained and more than $29 million was invested at properties investigated with EPA funds. The EPA shows Lawrence received $300,000.
  • City of Lebanon – to continue an environmental investigation of sites along Indianapolis Avenue. The city has conducted 25 environmental assessment at 11 different properties. The EPA shows Lebanon received $300,000.

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