Toxic waste: EPA, private contractors in process of determining scale of project

COLUMBIA CITY — Workers wearing hazardous materials suits aren’t on-scene yet, but officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and independent contractors are in Columbia City assessing the scale of cleanup that will be needed to bring a local industrial property into federal compliance.“The state fire marshal and IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) first requested our assistance back in 2006,” said Theresa Holz, an on-scene coordinator for the U.S. EPA who is overseeing the cleanup of the former Testworth Laboratories, Inc. building on South Main Street.According to Holz, since the initial concerns were raised with the former latex manufacturer five years ago, a second complaint was filed and the business was shut down in late April of 2010.Holz said the concerns raised by fire officials and IDEM involved “fire suppression” issues regarding certain chemicals, the quality of the containers and the proximity of certain chemicals to other volatile materials.“We shut it down last year,” she said.Holz said the property, which according to an online business registry was last run by Wil and Lucile Campbell, doesn’t appear to be a danger to the surrounding community.“This is a pretty typical cleanup that we do,” she said.“They’re all unique, but there are similarities with all of them.”Holz said soil tests and assessments of the water in the nearby Blue River show no signs of contamination.Holz works for an emergency response branch of the EPA.She said the independent firm, Environmental Restoration, Inc., with employees operating out of the company’s St. Louis office, will be conducting the cleanup, once the pre-cleanup assessment is complete.The EPA reported this week it would be removing numerous drums and other containers of flammable, corrosive and hazardous chemicals.Many of the containers were found to be open, leaking or in otherwise poor condition, according to an EPA press release.The agency also reported the cleanup would cost about $700,000.Tax records show that the property is currently not producing revenue for Columbia City with a past due property tax amount of $57,493.64.According to Jeff Walker, Columbia City’s Outside Operations Manager, the property went up for tax sale a few years ago, but did not sell.Testworth was founded in 1941, according to the EPA website. The company manufactured rubber-based adhesives, coatings, moldings and sealers.