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Beck's Lake Site

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  • South Bend, IN (St. Joseph County)
  • EPA ID#IND980904379
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Contact Information

Community Involvement Coordinator
Janet Pope
312-353-0628 or 800-621-8431, ext. 60628

Remedial Project Manager
Owen Thompson (thompson.owen@epa.gov)
312-886-4843 or 800-621-8431, ext. 64843

IDEM Project Manager
Jessica Fliss (jfliss@idem.in.gov)

About the National Priorities List

Contaminated sites placed on the EPA's National Priorities List are eligible for investigation and cleanup under EPA's Superfund program. Placing a site in the Superfund program allows for additional funding and resources, including enforcement. EPA's enforcement program seeks out those responsible for a hazardous waste site. Those responsible must either clean up the site or reimburse EPA for the cleanup.

In May 2013, EPA proposed placing the Beck's Lake site on its National Priorities List (NPL), better known as Superfund. A decision is expected by the fall. If the site is added to the NPL, a long-term Superfund investigation will begin to determine whether cleanup work will be necessary and what might be done.

The Beck's Lake site currently consists of LaSalle Park and nearby residential areas where past dumping left the soil contaminated with arsenic. EPA has taken soil samples in previous investigations, but only recently has the investigation expanded outside of LaSalle Park and into nearby residential areas.

December 2013
Beck’s Lake was added to the Superfund NPL on December 12, 2013 based on the Hazardous Ranking Score (HRS) generated for the site.  The HRS score is the standard process for determining if a site qualifies for the NPL.  The full HRS scoring package was made available to the public during the comment period for the Beck’s Lake NPL proposal and is available upon request. Putting a site on the National Priorities List enables federal enforcement authorities and funding sources that would otherwise not be available.   This means that a very comprehensive investigation and, as needed, cleanup can be done, following nationally-recognized standards and guidance. EPA anticipates beginning the investigation within the year.  EPA will continue to work with the community to make sure that they are informed throughout the remedial process.

August 2013
EPA along with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and other environmental and health officials held a public meeting to discuss the sampling results and the recent proposal of the Beck’s Lake site to the Superfund list.  A risk assessment of that sampling data indicates that LaSalle Park is safe to use as a public recreation area.

July 2013
The laboratory test results from the LaSalle Park sampling are posted below. None of these tests showed a need for park restrictions. A complete report on the sampling will be posted in August.

The laboratory results were consistent with the field screening, and have been reviewed by an EPA Toxicologist. Only two of the samples had arsenic concentrations above the mean background (but below the maximum) concentrations for St. Joseph County.

The highest arsenic concentration was found in the Southwest Playground area near a train set with a treated wood base. The arsenic contamination appears to be associated with this treated wood. We don’t consider this to be a problem in a recreational setting, and the wood base is currently covered with pea gravel, which limits exposure.

All the data collected during the June 2013 sampling show that the contaminants of concern are within or below the U.S. EPA acceptable risk range for residential settings (exposure for 350 days per year for 30 years). This is a very conservative evaluation when being used to determine risk in a recreational setting. It is also important to note that these detections are within the normal background range for arsenic in soil for St. Joseph County.

June 2013
On June 11 and 12, contractors working for EPA collected samples from the most heavily used areas of the park, such as playground equipment, soccer fields and the banks of Beck's Lake. EPA took samples from surface soil in LaSalle Park to determine whether any temporary restrictions on use of the park are necessary.
Previous testing focused on the residential area and on deeper, non-surface areas. The samples taken in June were field-screened for quick results using state-of-the-art X-ray equipment known as XRF. None of these tests showed a need for park restrictions. EPA will share results of more comprehensive laboratory results with the public when the results are available, probably in about two months.
Also, on June 13, EPA, IDEM and other environmental and health officials held availability sessions to discuss the proposed addition of the Beck's Lake site to the Superfund list. The meetings were well attended and there appeared to be broad support for the NPL listing from residents. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was present at both meetings to meet with attendees.

Site Background

In the early 1980s, documents obtained by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management showed the area near Beck's Lake was used by industry as a dump. IDEM recommended analyzing soil samples. In 1989, EPA took soil samples from around the lake and inspected the site to find out if it qualified for either a state or federal cleanup program. Based on the amount of contamination found in these early studies, IDEM evaluated the site in 1996 for inclusion on the NPL. They determined there was no need for further federal action, based on an evaluation that primarily considered the site's potential to affect drinking water. Since the city does not draw municipal water from the area and there was no evidence of drinking wells, IDEM referred the site to the Indiana Brownfields program for investigation and cleanup.

In 2001, the City of South Bend asked IDEM's Brownfield Program to take samples in LaSalle Park and surrounding lots. Workers took about 20 samples, and some showed arsenic at levels slightly higher than normal IDEM recommended additional tests on the soil and on the fish in Beck's Lake.
Those tests, done in 2004, found the quality of the lake was poor, but no specific or additional fish advisory was issued. All lakes and streams in Indiana have a Level 2 fish advisory.

IDEM reassessed the site in 2006 and took more than 20 surface soil samples from residential and public properties around the Beck's Lake site. Seven of those samples were found to have arsenic more than three times higher than what would normally be expected. Samples from the park alone did not show contamination levels that would meet Superfund criteria, but EPA and IDEM decided to do additional soil testing at nearby homes.

In 2009, IDEM collected 40 samples in an effort to determine the extent of arsenic contamination outside the park. Additionally, deep soil samples were taken in the park as part of an investigation to determine a potential source. Results of the 2009 investigation provided enough data for EPA to propose putting the site on the NPL. IDEM referred the site to EPA in 2011, but recommended that EPA use what is known as the Superfund Alternative Approach – the Agency would try to negotiate a cleanup with an unidentified party that might be responsible for the contamination, but not actually list the site on the NPL. EPA tried to negotiate a cleanup but could not reach an agreement. As a result, EPA — with IDEM support — has formally proposed adding Beck's Lake to the national list of Superfund sites.

Fact Sheet: Understanding the Superfund Alternative Approach

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Fact Sheets


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