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EPA Schedules Cleanup of Hazardous Waste Site

W.E.T. Waste Services Site
Terre Haute, Indiana
September 2008

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to spend up to $1.3 million in the coming weeks to clean up hazardous chemicals at a closed Vigo County business. Environmental officials say various hazardous substances including acids, caustics and volatile organic compounds are improperly stored at Wabash Environmental Technologies and W.E.T. Waste Services in Terre Haute. EPA says those chemicals pose an imminent health threat to nearby residents and the environment in the event of a fire or release.

EPA received legal permission to do an emergency cleanup after presenting evidence the abandoned and dilapidated industrial buildings on the W.E.T. property contain leaking 55-gallon drums holding various substances, tanks carrying 80,000 gallons of waste oil, and various laboratory chemicals. The site is located at 1331 S. First St. Work at the site will generate a significant amount of truck traffic and workers will be wearing protective clothing while handling hazardous materials. The cleanup by EPA contractors is expected to take 80 days. Hazardous substances and pollutants removed from the site will be treated, stored or disposed of at an off-site licensed facility.

Site history

W.E.T. operated a used oil processing facility on First Street from 2001 to 2004. In December 2004, Indiana Department of Environmental Management ordered the business to cease operations after finding serious environmental violations. The site also contains a wastewater treatment facility. In 2005, EPA and IDEM had to remove 220,000 gallons of liquid from the treatment facility that was threatening to overflow its storage tanks after heavy rains. The property is located in a mixed industrial, commercial and residential area. An apartment complex sits 200 feet away and a park, a day care center and four churches are also nearby. IDEM asked EPA to use its authority under the federal Superfund law to step in and remove the health threat posed by the improperly contained chemicals.

Site dangers

On the W.E.T. property, environmental inspectors found several hundred 55-gallon drums - many of them leaking - numerous 330-gallon totes, eight 10,000-gallon tanks containing waste oil and several laboratories holding improperly stored chemicals and compounds. In addition, an inspection revealed significant structural deterioration in some of the company buildings including crumbling brick and a partially missing roof. There was also evidence of trespassing on the property.

Not only does the site pose an imminent threat of releasing hazardous substances to the environment, but several chemicals stored near each other could explode or burn if they come in contact.

EPA concluded if no cleanup action was taken, the site would soon pose a "substantial endangerment" to public health and the environment.

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