Environmental assessments suggest cleanup work at the Bowser buildings site could go on long after trucks haul away the last bricks and demolition debris.
Work began this week on knocking down the last of the three buildings that stood on the site at 1320 E. Creighton Ave. The six-story structure housed the corporate offices of the S.F. Bowser pump company when the building was completed in 1917, and it later served as offices for Phelps Dodge Magnet Wire and the Fort Wayne Police Department.
Red brick buildings stood on either side of it when the demolition project began March 27. They now are gone, but the one on the east side of the property may be the source of some of the environmental concerns about the site. That building formerly housed a metal plating operation for the Bowser company.
Environmental assessment reports completed in 2016 for the site said ground-penetrating radar indicated "anomalies" that likely include two underground storage tanks and showed three smaller areas that may be of concern.
Groundwater monitoring wells installed at the site also showed the existence of hazardous heavy metals barium, cadmium, chromium and lead, with levels of cadmium and lead exceeding levels recommended by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).
Two groundwater monitoring wells on the east side of the property also contained Volatile Organic Compounds at levels exceeding IDEM recommendations. In addition, arsenic and/or lead was detected in the soil 6 inches to 18 inches deep at levels in excess of IDEM recommendations.
Asbestos in the office building was addressed before demolition began.
The excessive levels of hazardous heavy metals and possible underground storage tanks are a concern because the city has said the McMillen Foundation, which owns the site, plans to donate it to the YMCA of Greater Fort Wasyne for recreational use by the Renaissance Pointe YMCA, which stands just south of the Bowser buildings site.
However, the city will make sure the site is cleaned up properly, said Mary Tyndall, the Community Development department's public information officer.
The demolition contract with local company Martin requires it to meet all local standards for cleanup, and gives it a year to do so, Tyndall said via email.
"They have a waste stream plan that indicates what will be salvaged and what will be taken to an approved landfill," she said. "The (Allen County) Building Department must sign off on the removal of the foundation."
After demolition is complete and the debris is removed, Martin will excavate the areas where the ground-penetrating radar indicated possible underground storage tanks and report the results to the city, Tyndall said.
If Martin finds a problem, the city will work with an environmental consultant, who will notify IDEM of the findings, she said. The consultant also will work with the city to submit a remediation plan for IDEM approval.
The city also will work with the environmental consultant to resolve the problems with excessive levels of heavy metals in the groundwater and soil, as well as Volatile Organic Compounds in the groundwater wells, Tyndall said.
IDEM will monitor the planning and completion of the remediation work, she said.
If remediation work is required, it will be paid for separately from the demolition contract, she said. The city is using more than $500,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to pay for demolishing the buildings for the McMillen Foundation, a private local foundation.
Since the city doesn't know how much remediation work will be required, it doesn't know the cost for the work, Tyndall said. The Community Development department will pay for the remediation, but it has not yet identified a funding source to cover that expense.
McMillen Foundation, which reported assets of $34.6 million on its 2014 tax forms, won't have to pay for any of the demolition or cleanup costs, Tyndall said.
When asked if the McMillen Foundation would make a donation to a city project, such as riverfront development, in return for the city demolishing its Bowser buildings and cleaning up the site, Tyndall said there is no deal involved.
"The city of Fort Wayne has not asked for contributions from the McMillen Foundation for this or any other project," she said. "We share a collective commitment to continue the revitalization work in the Renaissance Pointe area. This is part of the city's ongoing efforts to invest in the neighborhood and provide opportunities for affordable and safe housing, as well as to improve the quality of life for residents.
The demolition of the Bowser buildings is "another step undertaken by the city to improve the aesthetics and quality of life in Renaissance Pointe," she said. "Although there are some neighbors opposed to the (Bowser demolition) project, there are many more who support it, and the city has repeatedly heard from those residents over the years."