Cleanup efforts at the former H.K. Porter industrial site in Huntington will take place in May.
A 40,000-gallon underground storage tank and two smaller auxiliary tanks at the roughly 12-acre site on Sabine Street will be dug up and removed beginning around Monday, May 9.
The work will be completed through the Indiana Brownfields Program with funding coming from its Petroleum Orphan Sites Initiative (POSI).
“The City of Huntington continues to work methodically on the cleanup of this site with its state and federal partners for the benefit of the community and those who live near this site,” said Bryn Keplinger, director of Community Development and Redevelopment for the City of Huntington. “Much of the work to date, aside from demolition of the outbuildings, is carried out behind the scenes with sampling, analysis and removal,”
Opened in 1919, the factory operated at different times as the Rapid Rim Company, Asbestos Manufacturing Company, Thermoid Rubber Company,
H.K. Porter and, as of its closure in 1999, Friction Materials Company.
Ultimately the city obtained ownership of the property in 2014 as unpaid taxes on the property mounted to more than $700,000.
Environmental testing the city conducted prior to and after taking ownership of the site reconfirmed the presence of hazardous materials first identified during an Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) assessment in 2002.
The contaminants found included asbestos, lead and benzene, each of which had been used for much of the factory’s history to manufacture linings for automotive parts such as brakes and clutches.
The city began cleanup soon after taking ownership, moving quickly to demolish most of the structures on site and removing hazardous materials from the property. The EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management got involved alongside the city in 2015.
The federal agency oversaw efforts to address some of the most pressing issues at the site over the next four years – namely, removing friable asbestos and pumping benzene out of the storage tanks.
In the summer of 2019, the EPA informed the city of plans to test adjacent properties for impacts from the decades of nearby manufacturing operations. The EPA intended to complete soil removals as needed at nearby residential properties alongside the agency’s final removal actions at the H.K. Porter site in 2020.
However, these actions were not completed as the federal government shifted its focus to containing the COVID-19 outbreak. The city has no indication as to when the EPA will resume activity at and near the site, but it is hopeful that 2023 will see them mobilize once again.
Keplinger submitted the city’s application to the Indiana Brownfields Program in December 2021 for the storage tank removal.
It was approved two months later and fully funded through a POSI program that helps Indiana communities clean up brownfield sites, or underutilized properties where redevelopment is complicated due to actual or potential environmental contamination.
Funding is available for sites where the current owner did not cause or contribute to the contamination and the party responsible is unable to pay because of dissolution, bankruptcy or abandonment of the property due to tax delinquency. More information on the program can be found at in.gov/ifa/brownfields.
Following the storage tanks’ removal, the city is optimistic that the EPA will again focus resources at the site.
No future use for the property will be determined until all cleanup work is complete and new environmental testing verifies its suitability for redevelopment.