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Project issues continue for Andrews TC

Updates regarding several ongoing matters were the main focus of the Monday, Oct. 25, Andrews Town Council meeting, including the problem of funding the town’s water project, as well as the contamination caused by the former United Technologies factory.

First, Eric Woodmansee, of AME Consulting, explained that State Revolving Fund (SRF) representatives wanted “more information from (the) town” and that SRF was looking to fund regional water infrastructure projects rather than individual projects.

“As of the last couple of years, it’s been trending towards IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) and the state wanting to do regional stuff instead of having individual towns doing their own treatment systems,” Woodmansee said.

Council President John Harshbarger made it clear that a regional option – which would require the town of Andrews to connect to Huntington for water – would not work.

“They had plenty of opportunity early on to let us know that they were not going to fund it … and they could have asked us to clarify our stance on that before they got down to the end where they were awarding grants,” Harshbarger said.

While it doesn’t bring the water project to a complete halt, it has been decided that the project will be postponed by at least a year. Some of the work that had already been completed to move forward with the project, such as filling out paperwork and completing the proper studies, can be carried over for the next year, when council will resume their efforts to receive funding for the project. Harshbarger said it would “be foolish” to move forward with parts of the project like digging test wells if they “don’t know if (they) will ever be able to use the property.”

Woodmansee suggested that the council meet with representatives from SRF to “make sure we’re all on the same page” about the solution that Andrews needs in order to “function as its own entity” after the water project is complete.

In the same vein, another pressing matter to attend to during the meeting revolved around contamination caused by the former United Technologies factory. Harshbarger introduced the matter by explaining that he had heard questions and comments from concerned citizens – and had also seen chatter on social media – regarding a large hole dug out of California Street.

According to Harshbarger, contractors had been hired by Ed Asher to dig into the area so that Asher could have connection to a sewer line. Unfortunately, during that process of digging, the contractors came across a sludge-like mixture of water, oil and chemicals.

Harshbarger also explained that this isn’t the first time that the town has run across this sludge before. He stated that, in 2018, council went through the United Technologies factory and found that there were oil and chemicals seeping up through the floor of the plant. He continued to say that Raytheon decided that they would dig out the sludge, haul some of it out and backfill other parts of it in with clay.

“I guess they thought that would be the solution,” Harsbarger said.
After the discovery of the sludge being present again, soil and water samples were taken and the project was put to a halt. Harshbarger said that, although the town is still waiting on some sample results to come back, one entity did come back with results – which stated that there were high levels of contamination in the soil and water collected.

“The water was contaminated, but not as high as we thought it was going to be,” Harshbarger said.

The town is doing additional investigation on the matter, and has heard nothing back from Raytheon representatives on the matter. The contamination has to be removed, otherwise other issues could arise. For example, if the sewer lines are opened up, there is a chance that the contamination could travel to the wastewater treatment plant or to the river. The situation puts both Asher and the council in a predicament – neither entity caused the problem, but the mess has to be cleaned up.

“Raytheon should be addressing and taking care of whatever extra needs done,” Harshbarger said. “I understand your frustration… but we didn’t know that this was going to happen. And for us to pay $24,000 is not fair either. I really think, just like (with) everything else, Raytheon should be paying for this.”
Asher agreed that Raytheon should “be held liable” for the matter.

“It’s their mess that I can’t even tie in,” Asher said. “The town didn’t create it, I didn’t create it… I’ve spent so much on it, I can’t do any more.”
State Senator Andy Zay was present during the meeting, listening to the issues presented. He reassured those present at the meeting that representatives are listening and have the goal of fixing these issues. He also shared that he has “run into some of the same things” that the council has run into when it comes to getting their problems solved.

Another matter that Zay was able to speak on was the issue of the delays that the town has experienced with Raytheon’s plan to clean out the town’s existing water wells. The original start date for that project was more than two months prior to the October meeting – yet it hadn’t even been started.
“It’s an unfortunate thing that I see as I travel around through my district and throughout the state – a lot of large industries left their problems behind,” Zay said. “For my part as your representative and your senator, I’m trying to create a future for Andrews that you can be proud of and I think that begins with getting that plant cleaned up and moving forward.”

Zay shared that he has different avenues that he can go down to get support for Andrews – which included writing letters of reference in support so that the town might receive grant funding, or explaining why certain options wouldn’t work for the town’s water project.

“Don’t ever think that I’m not paying attention,” Zay said. “Some days you have a little more luck and a little more influence, and some days you don’t, but we are at a point now where I think we can at least push some buttons and get some answers. They might not be answers that you like… but it might give us some direction and guidance moving forward.”

Citizens commented that the town should go above the state level to seek help – meaning that, rather than dealing with IDEM, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would take over. Harshbarger explained the issues that would occur if the EPA came in, including the fact that the clean up wouldn’t necessarily happen any faster or sooner.

“I know it sounds like some of these answers should be easy – but they’re not,” Harshbarger said.

These matters are slated to come back up in the next regular Andrews Town Council meeting, which is scheduled for tonight, Monday, Nov. 8, at 6 p.m.