The northern Indiana utility NIPSCO has agreed to pay more than $11 million to clean up more coal ash in the Town of Pines. That's according to a consent decree filed last week.
The utility plans to test for toxic heavy metals at about 400 homes and businesses where coal ash was used as “fill” in construction.
Exposure to high levels of toxic heavy metals can cause all kinds of health problems — including damage to your nervous system and increased risk for certain cancers.
Town Council President James Prast said because the ash was used as fill starting in the 1970s, many Pines residents aren’t aware that there’s still pollution and what harm it can cause.
“Recommend to everyone to get involved a little bit and ask questions so that they're knowledgeable of what's going on," he said.
Since 2003, about 270 residents have been hooked up to municipal water and NIPSCO removed three feet of contaminated soil from 19 properties.
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Nick Meyer is the vice president of state communications for NiSource — NIPSCO’s parent company. He encourages Pines residents to get their yards tested for toxic coal ash material.
“It's no cost to them, but it's certainly — you know, there's an inconvenience to the work that we would have to do if that is the case, but better for them in the long term," Meyer said.
The cleanup process in the Town of Pines has moved slowly. Though the Environmental Protection Agency has known about the contamination in Pines for about two decades, it only finalized cleanup plans for the site in 2016.
Though most residents with private wells were hooked up to municipal water, the EPA hasn’t settled on a long-term solution for the groundwater. Prast said no health studies have been done to determine how the water might have affected residents' health.
The public has 30 days to comment on the consent decree.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.