Barrel dump cleanup may be finished soon
Former 3-B Barrel and Drum owner-operator Alan C. Blackman may be released from jail soon as cleanup of the Central Barren site is nearly complete. Debris remains in a few rooms once occupied by 3-B, and the rest have been swept clean.
“With the financial drain it’s put on me, it better look a lot better,” said Blackman’s son, Ron Blackman, 34, Palmyra.
Ron Blackman is overseeing the cleanup of the buildings, or what’s left of the deteriorating former meat packing plant. Blackman estimates the cleanup cost so far at about $25,000, plus $10,000 to $15,000 in lost business.
In some areas, the ceilings have caved in. One room is full of debris that has fallen from the ceiling, and some rooms that have been cleaned now have piles of rubble from the ceiling. No part of the remaining building, formerly the Wenning meat packing plant and later a water bottling facility, is sound, Blackman said.
“Every bit of it needs to be bulldozed down, but I’m not going to do it. It belongs to the county now,” Blackman said. “There’s not one structure here worth keeping standing.”
Blackman runs a salvage and cleanup company that clears train wreck sites. Last week he said he hoped to be finished at 3-B by Monday, but three jobs came in over the weekend. One was from Fort Wayne, one from Georgia, and one from Shelbyville, Ky. Regardless, he said the 3-B cleanup should be finished within days.
“We’re real close,” he said Monday. “It will be soon, but I’m not going to be locked into a date.”
Once the job is complete, Alan Blackman’s attorney, Stan Robison of New Albany, said he will file a motion to modify the three-year jail term and ask for his client’s release.
Alan Blackman was sentenced in Harrison Superior Court in January for violating probation by not showing any progress in cleaning up the site.
He had pleaded guilty to felony charges brought in 1998 for storing hazardous wastes at the old plant and had agreed to clean up the site by January 2003. However, he failed to file the necessary progress reports and was sent to jail in January by Judge Roger D. Davis.
The judge said at the time he would consider Blackman’s early release only after he, the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management (IDEM) and deputy prosecutor Dennis Byrd are satisfied that the job has been properly completed.
“The judge has run out of patience on this,” Robison said. “He has been very patient so far in this whole matter, and he had to do what he had to do.”
IDEM will require documentation that all items at the Central Barren site have been disposed of at a proper facility. Receipts will show what went to which facility, said David H. Eiler, environmental investigator for IDEM.
“The ultimate goal here, after everything is said and done, is the cleanup,” Eiler said.
IDEM’s concern, he said, was that Blackman had not shown progress in cleaning up the site, which had been contaminated by the 3-B operation. “That was our concern for months and months and months.
“We never saw any progress.”
During a tour of the facility Friday, Ron Blackman said, “My father does not deserve to be in jail. He has not done a heinous crime against society.”
Many items at the plant were either dumped there since 3-B vacated the plant or were there when the barrel cleaning operation started, Blackman said.
Ron Blackman said his father, who is 57, is in poor health and is not receiving proper medical treatment at the state prison at Plainfield, near Indianapolis, although he is seen regularly by a prison doctor, about every two weeks.
“He has some major health issues,” including bleeding ulcers, bad nose bleeds, blood pressure problems, gout in the spine and shingles.
All this, coupled with Alan Blackman’s illiteracy has led to misunderstanding in some instances, and has made dealing with the cleanup difficult if not impossible for his father, the son said.
Since before and after the building was vacated, others have dumped things like tires inside the building. Ron Blackman said much of the debris was in the building when 3-B began operating there.
“My father is being forced to clean up mess that was already there,” he said.
Trash is still being dumped at the property, included in the dumpsters brought to the property for the cleanup, Blackman said.
Throughout the entire process, Blackman said, “No one has asked my dad if he needed help.
“In my opinion, it’s easy for them to sit there and point fingers,” he added. “My father doesn’t comprehend things. They ask him things in the courtroom, and he says, ‘Yes,’ but he doesn’t comprehend.
“He had until January 2003 to clean this place up,” the son said. “January 2002, they locked him up.”
The son questioned why environmental cleanup funds, such as the “Super Fund,” weren’t available. “That’s what it’s there for,” he said.
But Eiler said, “Why should taxpayers have to pay for what they (3-B) created?”
“As I understand it,” Eiler said, “Super Fund” usually pays for cleanups in cases of large contaminated areas.”
Environmentally hazardous materials were removed earlier by IDEM at a cost of about $110,000. Those costs, plus any fines or penalties, will be forgiven if Blackman completes the cleanup.
According to property records, 3-B never owned the property. The last owner of record is now deceased, and ownership of the building and nearly 26 acres has reverted to the county because no one stepped forward during tax sales to pay the nearly $200,000 owed.
County officials recently approved funds for an environmental assessment, which is needed before the property can be sold and put back on the tax rolls.