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Gary airport sues for $2.5M cleanup

Crusader Staff Report

The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority has filed a lawsuit against New Jersey-based Honeywell International Inc., seeking $2.5 million for an environmental cleanup near airport property.

The lawsuit accuses Honeywell and its subsidiaries, including Universal Oil Products, of sending significant amounts of hazardous wastes that wound up near the airport property. Airport Authority officials said the waste, consisting of petroleum and volatile organic compounds, was dumped on the site when land adjacent to the airport property was owned and operated several decades ago by the Conservation Chemical Co. of Illinois.

According to the lawsuit, between 1985 and 2014, investigations by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management found that hazardous materials seeped onto the airport’s property, into a nearby ditch, then into the Grand Calumet River. The complaint also says EPA officials issued a “removal action” between 1985 and 1989 to try to get Honeywell to clean up the site.

Honeywell officials declined to comment on the lawsuit or how their company used the site for disposal all those years ago.

The lawsuit says that back in 1998, Honeywell was listed among a group of potentially responsible parties that agreed to remediate a portion of the site of soil and groundwater contamination.

That remediation was limited to the actual site and did not include any airport property south of the site or in an adjacent ditch, which runs about 5,700 feet from the old Conservation Chemical Co., site to where it discharges into the Grand Calumet River.

In recent years, pollutants were discovered when airport officials began the work for the expansion of the airport’s primary runway.

Airport officials said $500,000 of airport funds has already been spent cleaning up the mess. In a lawsuit filed back in March in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, airport officials said an additional $2 million will need to be spent to fully resolve the situation.

According to one news report, airport authority officials have discussed the lawsuit privately with the airport’s governing board, seeking to ratify a lawsuit case number so the legal action could proceed in the courts.

The board, however, was unable to do so on Monday due to a lack of a quorum. Attorney Michael Tolbert said the board’s action may take place at a special meeting that may be held next week.


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