Air Pollution Control Equipment Services, Coal

News of site contamination a boon to power plant plans

By LOU MUMFORD, Tribune Staff Writer

NILES,Ind., Oct. 18, 2000 (South Bend Tribune) — An 80-acre parcel in the Niles Industrial Park where a gas-fired power plant may be built is contaminated and suitable for little else except a power plant, Niles City Administrator Terry Eull said Thursday.

At a news conference in the Niles Utilities Department, Eull said a surface study conducted by Landmark Technologies, Inc., of St. Joseph revealed the contamination.

He said the finding will result in the site, between the Patriot Tool & Die development and Korn Street, to be identified as a brownfield site.

Based on the finding, the administrator said use of the property is severely limited.

“It can’t be used to build a home … You couldn’t have a park there,” he said. “You can’t do a lot with it.”

He said the property could be used for a machine shop or similar operation but the contamination, coupled with the site’s proximity to natural gas lines and an American Electric Power Company substation, makes it ideal for a power plant.

Eull said it’s almost certain the contamination, which includes such substances as arsenic and mercury, arose from the railroad yard that operated in the area for more than 100 years.

The finding is good news for Indeck Energy Services, the Buffalo Grove, Ill. firm that has proposed a $500 million to $600 million, 1,100-megawatt power plant for the site. Properties classified as brownfield facilities qualify for tax benefits that aren’t available in other areas, Eull said.

“The state gives credits on its single-business tax, based on the investment it (Indeck) makes,” he said.

He said Indeck won’t be required to remove the contaminants but, should the Niles City Council agree to sell the property to Indeck, it’ll have to follow certain guidelines when it develops the property.

“You can do certain things … but you have to do them a certain way,” he said.

Landmark Technologies was hired by Indeck to prepare a base-line environmental assessment of the site, Eull said. He said the surface check is the first phase of the assessment, with the next phases involving soil borings and potential ground-water contamination.

He said the base-line assessment will protect Indeck, should it end up with the property, because the state will have a record of the contaminants already on site. The firm would only be held liable for contaminants that show up in addition to those already there.

Eull indicated a decision by the council on the property sale could be forthcoming soon. He said only an independent analysis by Gannett Fleming of Detroit stands in the way, and the report could be completed in as little as two weeks.

Eull said a public hearing would then be conducted before the council votes on the issue.

New plants termed necessary

William Gallagher, a 21-year veteran of the Utilities Department’s citizen advisory board, said Thursday that there’s a greater need for additional electric-generating facilities than the general public realizes.

The demand is such that even the Midwest would have had brownouts, he said, had temperatures last summer been in the high 90s like they were the previous summer.

Gallagher, who said he was speaking as a private citizen rather than a utilities board member, said AEP will have to pay sizable fines if it fails to significantly reduce pollutants coming from its coal-fired plants by October, 2003.

Gas-fired plants, which burn much cleaner and more efficiently than the coal-fired variety, would supply the power AEP would need to meet energy demands while its retrofitting or replacing its coal plants, he said.

He said pollutants do trap heat and contribute to global warming but the type emitted by gas-fired plants aren’t a threat to people who reside near the facilities.

“They do not come down the outside of a stack and travel on the ground. They do return to the earth 100 to 1,000 miles away with snow or rain in what is known as ‘acid rain,”‘ he said in a prepared statement.

Gallagher added pollutants from automobile emissions and coal- fired plants are much more prevalent than those from gas-fired plants. He said they need to be dealt with relatively soon if there’s to be any chance of reversing global warming.

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