PRINCETON — The goal of cleaning up a former oil refinery site owned by the county is to get it on the property tax roll, Gibson County Commissioner Steve Bottoms said Tuesday morning, as commissioners conducted a public hearing in pursuit of up to $200,000 in EPA grant funding to clean up the former R.J. Oil and Refining property.

"What we will do with the property depends on how much funding can be leveraged in the cleanup," Bottoms said of the 37-acre parcel on the west side of U.S. 41 near Enon Church Road.

Commissioners are working with the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana to pursue grant funding for the soil remediation work.

Last month, commissioners accepted a $525,000 release of funds from R.J. Oil Company to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, to be used as match in pursuing the $200,000 EPA cleanup grant for remediation at the site. The grant application deadline is Nov. 16.

In 2016, commissioners gave the coalition access to the former refinery property for assessment. The land was the focus of an EPA Superfund cleanup project in the early 1990s, and a state petroleum remediation grant in 2008.

Bottoms said the county doesn't expect that the land would be used for residential property. According to the draft of the grant application, the former oil refinery operated from 1947-1973, serving as bulk storage and processing site for crude oil, naphtha, fuel oil, gasoline, diesel and kerosene.

"Since its closing, petroleum and hazardous substances have been left contaminating the soil and groundwater beneath the site," and asbestos materials have also been left on the ground, according to the grant application.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management conducted a cleanup of the property from 1989 to 1994 that included removing 278,000 gallons of petroleum product, 6,440 cubic yards of contaminated soil, PCB-containing transformers, asbestos material, compressed gas cylinders and drums. IDEM supervised work to solidify and bury 164,000 gallons of tar, and injection wells were capped and plugged. The cleanup work at that time did not include soil and groundwater sampling, according to the grant application.

A study of the site in January showed petroleum and hazardous substances contaminate soil and groundwater beneath the site, according to the application. "The petroleum contaminated groundwater may be migrating off-site and impacting groundwater wells and indoor air quality associated with the adjacent residential homes," the application document reports.

The grant application document reports the cleanup of the site is "crucial to protecting the adjacent properties including residential and agricultural land," noting that there are 12 nearby water wells within a half mile of the site.

The cleanup plan proposes to remove asbestos, clear the site of overgrown vegetation, remove 12 tons of mercury-contaminated soil and replace with clean fill material followed by soil sample to monitoring, soil boring, 16 monitor wells, a vapor study, and groundwater remediation if required, followed by groundwater sampling and monitoring. Once the cleanup is complete, according to the proposal, an environmental restriction covenant may still be necessary for future uses of the site (no groundwater wells, no residential use, etc.).

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