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3-B Barrel site better than expected

An environmental consulting firm’s initial report predicts the former 3-B Barrel and Drum Co. site at Central Barren is less polluted than feared, but soil sampling tests were continuing this week to check for possible contaminants.
“It’s better than I thought it would be,” said Greg Romaine, vice president of the Sesco Group of Indianapolis. “We feel as though we’re going to be able to get our hands around any problems that are out there.”
Traces of PCBs, which are known carcinogens, were found in the soil around a concrete pad where discarded appliances were once disassembled for recycling. Seven underground storage tanks will have to be removed and the ground tested for pollutants, Romaine said.
The findings thus far were revealed Monday at a public hearing at the courthouse by Sesco, the firm hired by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners and County Council to conduct the study. About a dozen people attended, about half of whom live near the site. Most are fearful of pollutants in water wells.
The county study follows a clean-up of asbestos, leaking barrels, solvents and other hazardous waste found by the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management at the barrel recycling and scrap salvage company site.
“We’re looking for the gap between what IDEM found and what we think was missed,” Romaine said.
During the first phase of the study, Sesco has concentrated on documenting history of the site, including ownership.
The site was developed by the Wenning meat packing plant in 1918; that company folded in 1980. Since then, a water bottling company operated there, posing no environmental problems, and after that, the barrel-cleaning operation.
Romaine said that operation was apparently run cleaner than the IDEM thought, but geological tests will be conducted to determine whether underground pollution has occurred. Once those are complete, and should further cleanup be necessary, the county must decide how to proceed. The county now owns the property through default on property taxes.
Those persons at Monday’s meeting were invited to the clean-up site to see for themselves how the testing is conducted. Sesco will also determine if any pollutants have drained from the building into a retention pond at the site.
Whether drinking water from wells has been contaminated remains a question, but Commissioner James Goldman, whose First District includes the site in northern Harrison County, at Wennings Road and S.R. 135, would like to see the property sold for acceptable industrial or residential development.
Once Sesco has determined if future clean-up is necessary, the company can assist the county in applying for state grants to cover the expense, Romaine said. Sesco’s report should be complete this month.
Former 3-B operator Alan Blackman remains in jail on contempt of court charges for failing to properly clear the building of barrels and debris, which his son, Ron Blackman, has nearly completed. Blackman’s attorney is expected to file a motion in court soon for his release.