Clerk-Treasurer Ron Weigel asked whether IDEM inspects the property once remediation has occurred. According to the attorney, “You do get a no further action letter from IDEM ... It would protect you from a negligence suit, but it’s not a release of legal liability.” With the letter in hand, the lot “becomes very marketable. A developer would know no further action is necessary.”
City officials had questions. Gene Lambert, a BBW and council member, said, “We believe this is in our best interests to get this cleaned up. Let’s just say we don’t do anything with it. Who has to clean it up at that point?” Guevara said if Batesville leaders are aware of contamination, they must act.
He added that investigation results must be reported to IDEM. If the city doesn’t want to take over the property, the state agency “would seek to have the current property owner address the issue” by issuing a special notice of liability letter. If there is no response, the state department likely would issue an enforcement order that, if ignored, could result in fines and penalties. “In the long term, IDEM may address the impacts then and more likely than not put a lien on the property ... that would be years” from now.
Council member Jim Fritsch asked about the possibility of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management waiving property taxes and underground storage tank fees to lessen the financial blow to the city. The attorney’s opinion? “It’s unlikely.” Meanwhile, the city would have to spend money on attorney’s fees for the waiver documents.
Fritsch then questioned, “What are the health hazards with benzene ... Are they talking cancer or irritants?” The attorney explained because the concentration of benzene and its duration underground hasn’t been determined, “it’s too difficult to tell.”