Parks board considers next move on Jackson Street property

Columbus officials say they are willing to help the owner of a Jackson Street property look for grants to pay for chemical contamination cleanup, but they will not use tax money to pay for any remediation.

Columbus Parks and Recreation Department has been in negotiations since last year to buy a vacant former machinery moving building at 1360 Jackson St., owned by Norma Lienhoop, aunt of Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop. The parks department hopes to use the property as a storage facility since it is close to downtown Columbus.

Columbus Parks Board members received an update Thursday about the status of the property from Columbus Parks Director Mark Jones, who said tax money will not be used to remove the chemical contamination on the property. That contamination includes benzene and other petroleum-related chemicals that were found in soil and groundwater after testing at the site.

“To speak from a board point of view, there is no intention of purchasing that property unless it is a clean piece of property,” parks board member John McCormick said. “If we can help the owner make that happen, not at our expense but by our connections and by our work with her, we’re happy to do that.”

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop has recused himself from all negotiations or decisions about the building.

Soil borings at the property at the site of the former Machinery Moving Inc., indicate the chemical contamination may have come from underground storage tanks.

The property had three underground fuel storage tanks installed between 1972 and 1976. While state records indicate those tanks were removed in 1989, Jones said engineers could find no local documentation that confirmed their removal from the property.

In an executive summary provided by Indianapolis-based Ark Engineering Service in Phase I and Phase II environmental reports, company officials said they did six soil borings to collect soil and groundwater samples. The company also collected wipe samples within the interior of the buildings to “evaluate for the presence and/or absence of chemical impacts to building surfaces associated with historic site maintenance and storage operations.”

Machinery Moving Inc., an industrial rigging facility, set up small and large heavy machinery at off-site factories and manufacturing facilities. Operations included transportation and storage of various types of machinery until early 2018, according to Ark.

The former Machinery Moving Inc. site consists of two, single-story vacant office and warehouse buildings, with an asphalt and gravel parking lot and landscaping on three parcels of land, taking up just over 2 acres, according to Ark.

Ark reported that the soil showed chemical impacts exceeding the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Remediation Closure Guide, Residential Migration to Groundwater Screening Levels and Residential Direct Contact Screening Levels for several petroleum hydrocarbon constituents. These included benzene, ethylbenzene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene, xylenes, 1-methylnaphthalene, 2-methylnaphthalene and naphthalene.

Petroleum hydrocarbon substances in the form of benzene, 1-methylnaphthalene, 2-methylnaphthalene and naphthalene were found in groundwater in amounts that exceeded IDEM’s Residential Screening Levels, the report stated. Benzene was also found exceeding IDEM Residential Vapor Exposure Screening Levels, the report stated.

The wipe samples did not reveal chemical contamination that exceeded applicable IDEM screening parameters, the company said.

Ark officials said the soil contamination was found in two soil borings, and the groundwater contamination in one soil boring in the presumed area where the company may have had the underground storage tanks, the document states.

“Based on the results of this limited investigation, both soil and groundwater impacts do not appear to be widespread and appear to be limited to the area of the historic USTs, (underground storage tanks),” the report states.

“Although this area of impact is not widespread, additional investigation will be necessary to fully characterize the nature and horizontal extent” of the contamination, the report states.

Ark recommended the city report the test results to IDEM and consult with the state agency to determine the need for additional mitigation about what was found in the soil and groundwater.

Jones explained in an earlier interview that the parks department is interested in the property because it is more centrally located for storing mowers and other equipment rather than using storage at the Columbus Municipal AirPark on the north side of the city.

Terms of the proposed purchase deal call for the city to pay for the property over six years, making a $50,000 payment from its cash reserve fund the first year and then making $50,000 annual payments for a total of $250,000 from city capital funds. The property owner offered the payment option, which Jones said was better for the city due to cash flow and cash reserves.