Continental Steel Revisited

[From Connect Column Archives: published several years as the SuperFund site was being cleaned. This serves as a reminder to not let guard down. More recently, there is ground water pollution from an unknown source for wells that serve the Indiana American Water company’s wells for Kokomo.]

Millions have been spent to clean up the environmental catastrophy left behind by those who managed, owned, and operated the Continental Steel Corporation plants on the nearly 200 acre site at Markland Avenue and Phillips Street. Millions more will be spent over the next decade according to IDEM spokespersons speaking at a meeting to review the project. The bottom line is that there remains surface soil contamination, lagoon sediment contamination, PCBs, PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons), ground water contamination and all the rest. IDEM and the EPA have cleaned up the worst of it, but what remains at the site and all along the Wildcat Creek corridor from the Continental Steel main site to past Dixon Road is presently at contamination levels that are unacceptable.

Another major site of contamination with toxic compounds is the old quarry at the corner of Markland Avenue and Brandon Street. Eye witnesses can attest to the fact that all sorts of waste products from Continental Steel were dumped there over a long period of time. IDEM has already removed barrels and other debris from this old quarry site, but a huge amount of work remains.

Another possible site of Continental Steel dumping has only recently emerged and that is the old quarry location just south of South Side Lumber on South Washington Street. There are many Kokomo citizens that remember when this location was a big hole in the ground partially filled with water. They, also, remember trucks that looked like slag trucks backing up there to dump their loads over the years. If one drives by that site today, one sees a chain link fence with barbed wire on the top protecting what appears to be a level piece of ground. One must wonder why the fence. More than likely, IDEM would like some details about that place from folks who lived close by over those many years of dumping.

The folks at the meeting this past week with the IDEM representatives learned also that the funding structure for the Superfund was buried by the current administration along with a lot of other environmental protection programs. The tax that funded Superfund projects was eliminated. Now, each year the EPA must go before Congress and ask for funds from the general fund to pay for clean up projects. Seems rather a strange way to do business to me. This means that the burden is being born by the common taxpayer rather than by the industries that leave toxic compounds in the environment. So, IDEM has no idea from year to year if they will be able to complete the job started at Continental Steel. They have to do the best they can to attack the worst first and work their way to a point of stopping when money is no longer available regardless of whether or not the job is done.

The irony of this whole situation is that those responsible for the decisions and actions that have cost already millions to clean up with millions more to be spent have skated. They have no liability whatsoever. And many made a lot of money from the wheeling and dealing that took place in the end years of Continental Steel. I need not remind you of what happened to the pension funds for the employees that devoted their lives to that place. In my considered opinion, there is no way that the decision makers could not have known what they were doing at the time, both financially and environmentally. This is a perfect example of why those who run companies for profit must be watched carefully by elected representatives pledged to work for the common good. If not, another Exxon or Enron or Continental Steel will be just around the corner.

Heck, the administration might help them. Interesting to note that Mr. Bush through the EPA just this week made it easier for public utilities and industry to pollute the air.

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About Kent Blacklidge Ph.D.

As part of a newspaper family who owned a 34,000 daily newspaper in the heart of the Midwest, I have a passion for a strong “Fourth Estate”, the press. Without a diligent and assertive free press, the power would be taken from the people. People have the absolute right to know. After earning a degree in Industrial Management from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue, I spent over 20 years in newspaper management with several as publisher. I am also holder of three graduate science degrees including a Ph.D.. I have a passionate interest in science and the environment. I have little tolerance for ignorance and stupidity.
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