- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - The federal Environmental Protection Agency says it has taken soil test samples along a drainage ditch that empties into the Wabash River to see if there has been coal tar contamination.

Construction as part of a sewer overflow project was halted last month because of possible contamination. A coal tar-like substance was found when crews for the Terre Haute Sanitary District dug across the drainage ditch to install a forced main pipe for the project, The Tribune-Star (http://bit.ly/1OCW2YJ ) reports.

Rachel Bassler, an EPA spokeswoman, said test samples were taken Wednesday and will let officials determine whether the river is “currently being affected by contamination from the subsurface coal tar in the area.”

City Engineer Chuck Ennis said Thursday construction on the forced main pipe has continued under a method approved by the EPA so workers aren’t exposed to contaminated water and soil. Work there is expected to be completed by month’s end, according to Ennis.

The city of Terre Haute owns the property, but it was once part of Western Tar Products Corp., a manufacturer of coal tar-based chemicals and pressure-treated railroad ties. The company’s fifth-generation owner, Joseph B. Card, created CAVU Ops Inc. in 2000 when assets of Western Tar were sold.

CAVU Ops is liable for any contamination, the EPA says. Card said an environmental consultant took a sample this week on company-owned land, and that coal tar has been found previously on the former Western Tar property.

The EPA responded to a report of black material seeping into the Wabash River in 2009, and identified it as coal tar. A limited removal of coal tar materials from the river shore was done, and the EPA issued an order requiring CAVU Ops to identify the extent of contamination and submit a work plan. Bassler said the company began implementing that plan Nov. 30.

Step one, Card said, is additional sampling.

” It is not anything that is easily solved and just takes a lot of sampling,” Card said. “We want to do it the right way.”

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Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

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