Toxic chemical cleanup could reach $35 million

The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, October 11, 2006
LOWELL – Toxic chemicals are leaking from inside barrels at a landfill, which officials estimate will cost the town between $20 million and $35 million to clean up.
High levels of methane, hydrogen cyanide, lead and arsenic were found. But tests of two private wells off the landfill property indicate there does not appear to be an immediate health risk associated with drinking or bathing in the water, said Jeff Langbehn, executive director of the Lake County Solid Waste Management Dis- trict.
Langbehn told about 100 concerned residents at a meeting Monday night that when officials from Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. entered Feddeler Landfill to begin testing, safety sensors they wear alerted them to potentially deadly chemicals. It was only the second time in the company’s history the sensors activated on a site, Langbehn said. The crews returned with special suits and breathing apparatus to conduct the tests.
“We have a fairly significant reason to believe this is the tip of the iceberg,” Langbehn said. “My concern is if we get some kids to go out there on a dare. If they came in contact (with the gas), they wouldn’t even know what happened. We’d just find them dead.”
Lake County police have arranged for guards to stand by the landfill to prevent anyone from climbing on top, but that’s just the beginning. To protect the rest of the town 20 miles south of Gary from the dangers there, they are going to need a lot more money.
It is unclear who is responsible to pay for the cleanup because the Feddeler family sold the landfill and filed for bankruptcy and the company’s bond establishing financial responsibility for the property expired.
The newly formed Lake County Environmental Law Enforcement Task Force will try to determine responsibility for the toxic waste.

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