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Posted by: Steve Kimmel 1 year ago

Submitted by the City of Huntington

Leveraging a nearly $1 million federal grant, the City of Huntington continues to follow through on a commitment to clean up the approximately 12-acre H.K. Porter industrial site and make plans for its future redevelopment.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a Brownfields Cleanup Grant Award of $991,000 to support the city’s efforts to remediate the contaminated site, demolish the remaining structures and create a community plan for the property’s eventual reuse.

“Ten years ago, the City of Huntington embarked on cleaning up 90 years’ worth of pollution from the H.K. Porter site on the east end of the city. We are grateful for our public and private partners in the ongoing clean-up efforts: U.S. EPA, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Keller Partners & Co. and SME. Additionally, we appreciate the efforts of the Indiana Congressional delegation members and their staff for their support in this work,” Huntington Mayor Richard Strick said. “With this award and local funds, the City is able to remediate the remaining onsite materials and demolish the structures by the end of 2025. This next step will prepare the site for safe and productive reuse that will benefit the neighbors around it.”

Brownfield sites like H.K. Porter are properties where redevelopment is prevented due to environmental contamination. The just-announced EPA grant will pay costs associated with decontaminating interior surfaces, clearing residual debris and removing asbestos-laden dust left behind from decades of manufacturing activity at the property’s main facility. This methodical cleanup process will happen alongside the building’s demolition. Concrete slab foundations from the already-demolished outbuildings and parking areas that remain on site will also be removed.

Building upon initial community feedback and residents’ comments at public meetings held most recently last fall, Huntington will establish a Reuse Advisory Committee to gather additional public input and consider different reuse plans.

On top of the EPA grant award, the City of Huntington is committing another $1.75 million for the remaining demolition in addition to applying for a $500,000 state Blight Clearance Program grant. The targeted result will be having the property cleared for reuse and ready for redevelopment to begin by 2026, provided no additional contamination is identified.

“Cleanup and demolition of the H.K. Porter site have been a longstanding priority for the City of Huntington. It has long been a drain on city resources, the tax base and quality of life for the community, especially those residents who have to look at it out their windows every single day,” said Bryn Keplinger, the city’s director of Community Development and Redevelopment.

The City of Huntington’s Redevelopment Commission acquired the H.K. Porter property in 2014 due to tax delinquency. Environmental assessments of the property began immediately, and deliberate, incremental progress has been made since. In the years since the city acquired ownership, steps taken at the property have included demolishing all outbuildings and removing multiple underground storage tanks across the site. The EPA is currently removing three lead hotspots from the property as well.

The city’s 2015 application for a federal brownfield assessment grant increased EPA attention on the property, leading to its inclusion in the agency’s Emergency Response Program. To date, significant federal resources have gone toward assessing contaminants and formulating remediation plans at the site and adjacent properties. Though delayed due to the federal government’s COVID-19 response, 11 neighboring residential properties are slated for soil replacement by the EPA due to elevated levels of lead.

In addition to lead and asbestos, testing has also identified hexavalent chromium and benzene at the H.K. Porter property. Asbestos, the main contaminant, is the only remaining one known to exceed acceptable limits.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Indiana Brownfields Program have also been involved in the site’s ongoing assessment and remediation.

Located in a residential area in the eastern part of Huntington, the former manufacturing facility used what are now known to be hazardous materials in the production of automotive parts for much of its operational history.

The facility operated in Huntington for several decades. It opened in 1919 and expanded several times over the coming years, employing hundreds at its peak. Operations ceased in 1999, and then-owner Friction Materials declared bankruptcy the next year.

Original owner Rapid Rim Co. sold the facility in 1924 to the Asbestos Manufacturing Company, which began making brake pads and clutch facings there. The facility continued producing automotive parts while operating as H.K. Porter starting in the late 1940s and Friction Materials from the late 1980s until its closure.

Until the city acquired it more than a decade later, the property remained under private ownership following its purchase at bankruptcy auction in 2001. It has been vacant since 2008 when the Indiana Department of Environmental Management hauled away hazardous materials that had been transported from other locations and stored there.

Vandalism at the site has been a regular occurrence, and an April 2022 fire that was determined to be arson left the building with significant structural damage.