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Background Information

Introduction

Between 2000 and 2002, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) tested a number of private wells in the vicinity of the Town of Pines. Boron and/or molybdenum were detected in some wells at concentrations above current USEPA guidelines in two distinct areas of the town. Based on these tests, USEPA decided to extend municipal water service to residences in these two areas. This extension was installed in 2003 by Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) and Brown Inc. (Brown).

In 2003, USEPA tested a number of additional wells in the vicinity of the Town of Pines. This testing indicated that boron and/or molybdenum were detected in additional wells at concentrations near or above current USEPA guidelines.

In April of 2004, USEPA, NIPSCO, and Brown agreed to undertake the following actions:

  • An investigation of the nature and occurrence of constituents derived from coal combustion by-products, including boron and molybdenum, in groundwater;
  • An extension of the municipal water service; and
  • Supplying bottled water to additional residences on an interim basis.

These undertakings are documented in two Administrative Orders on Consent (AOCs), which were entered into by NIPSCO, Brown, and USEPA.

Administrative Orders on Consent (AOCs)

The first AOC, referred to as AOC I, was signed in January 2003. Under AOC I, municipal water service was extended to 130 homes in two particular areas of the Town of Pines. This work was completed in December 2003.

In April 2004, AOC I was amended. The Amendment to AOC I specified that municipal water service be extended to a larger area of the Town of Pines. The Amendment to AOC I also specified that bottled water was to be supplied to this area until the extension was completed, and that bottled water was to be supplied to certain residences outside the area until an investigation into the presence of constituents derived from coal combustion by-products in groundwater was completed. The construction of the municipal water service extension to approximately 140 homes began in the Spring of 2004. This work was completed by July 1, 2005.

A second order, referred to as AOC II, specifies that NIPSCO and Brown complete an investigation into the nature and occurrence of constituents derived from coal combustion by-products in groundwater, and the potential impact of these constituents within the Area of Investigation. The investigation will also evaluate the potential risks to human health and the environment (refer to Issue 18 of the Pines Update Newsletter).

To read more about the AOCs, view Issue 1 of the Pines Update Newsletter. The investigational process is further discussed in Issue 6, Issue 10, Issue 14, Issue 16 and Issue 17 of the Pines Update Newsletters.

Brief History

NIPSCO supplies electricity to the Town of Pines, a community of over 300 homes, as well as most of northwest Indiana. The nearby Michigan City Generating Station, which is owned and operated by NIPSCO, uses coal as its energy source for the production of electricity. NIPSCO is not alone in the use of coal for energy. For years, many organizations burned coal, including the Indiana State Prison and other local industry. The burning of coal results in coal combustion by-products.

There are beneficial reuses for coal combustion by-products, such as roofing granules, blasting abrasives, waste stabilization, as a road sub-base, as structural fill, and as a replacement for Portland cement in concrete. Coal combustion by-products from the Michigan City Generating Station have been used in this manner; however, some of the by-products that were not reused were disposed at a permitted Restricted Waste Facility. This facility, called “Yard 520” is operated by Brown. Coal combustion by-products from Michigan City Generating Station are no longer being disposed of at this facility.

Boron and molybdenum are naturally present in groundwater and soil. They can also be present in the environment from human activities. Their presence in groundwater in the Pines area may be associated with the disposal of coal combustion by-products in Yard 520, or with the re-use of by-products by the Town and County as road bed or fill material, or may be naturally occurring. The source of the boron and molybdenum and the presence of these elements at Yard 520 and in the community is the focus of the Remedial Investigation.