EVANSVILLE, Ind. - A former scrapyard in Evansville is again turning heads and gaining international attention. In 2007, two properties along the Ohio River that had once been owned by General Waste Products were revitalized after 150 years of heavily industrialized use. Now free of pollution as part of the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage and the Shirley James Gateway Plaza, the 4.5 acre site was recently visited by a delegation from China studying environmental clean-up efforts.
The Chinese delegation included engineers, scientists and representatives from various agencies who were visiting the U.S. on a two-week tour to learn from similar sites.
"Our visit from the Chinese delegation shows that what we accomplished in Evansville with the former General Waste site can be done anywhere there is a collective effort and interested parties work together," said Kathleen Lucas, an attorney with Bose McKinney & Evans LLP. As a court-appointed Trustee, Lucas oversaw the project through the Evansville Greenway & Remediation Trust along with Trust Counsel Michael Nelson of Hunsucker Goodstein & Nelson PC.
The Trust filed lawsuits seeking clean-up costs from various parties based on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), as well as state environmental law. The Trust then worked with the city of Evansville and Apex Companies LLC to complete the clean-up effort under the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's Voluntary Remediation Program.
While originally budgeted at $11 million, the Trust was successful in controlling the costs of remediation, which reduced overall expenses by approximately $7 million.
The project was so successful, the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) named it as the recipient of its 2011 National Environmental Excellence Award in the category of Environmental Stewardship. In February 2012, the project was the subject of a State of Indiana resolution introduced by State Representative Gail Riecken and recognized by the Indiana General Assembly.
"We were fortunate to have a team of experts and dedicated professionals who knew how to see this project through to completion and below the expected cost," said Rep. Riecken. "As a result, the people of Evansville can enjoy the property as both a safe and beautiful public park, while businesses can take full advantage of its commercial potential."
Vacant for nearly 15 years, the River Yard property is expected to once again contribute to the local economy. Meanwhile, says Riecken, Evansville will serve as an example of how industrial properties can be turned around from visible blight to a source of community pride.