In correspondence with state environmental officials in 1990 and 1991, Cabot attorneys described the materials as “very slightly radioactive,” and said they were at the “lower limit of [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] regulation.”
“Many natural or semi-natural materials such as granite and bricks contain comparable amounts of radioactivity,” a Cabot attorney wrote in a March 18, 1991 letter to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. “If such articles are safe on store shelves, safe to use in the workplace and safe to use to build homes and offices, they are safe in the quarry.”
This month, the Kokomo Board of Public Works & Safety agreed to take over the property, on the condition that Cabot excavates and disposes of the grinding wheels, under EPA supervision.
That means Cabot will have to excavate some 10 to 15 feet down, just to get to the grinding wheels, which are consolidated in one corner of the rectangular site. Cabot officials indicated they’d marked the exact location of the grinding wheels, in the event future regulations required their removal, or a future owner wanted them gone.
Cabot officials were hoping to market the site for redevelopment when they started excavating it in May 1989, but they found considerably more contamination than they’d expected.
Instead of one or two dozen barrels, there were hundreds. And after the incident with the ruptured barrel, excavation proceeded slowly, with radiation detectors used to scan every foot of soil.
Barrels filled with carcinogenic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls were among the items removed.
Just about everything excavated was taken out of an area at the northeast corner of the site, up against edge of the former Southside Lumber company property.
That corner is where the grinding wheels remain, and where Cabot will excavate when ready.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, contacted Sept. 24 about the property, were unable to respond to a request for more information prior to the Oct. 1 shutdown of the federal government.