Case Study – The General Waste Main Yard and River Yard in Evansville, Indiana
Every case has its own challenges, but in some cases those challenges are greater than others. The General Waste Products site in Evansville, Indiana was one of those projects which had a multitude of challenges.
The project involved the remediation and regulatory closure of a two related sites. The first site, known as the “Main Yard” was a 4.5-acre abandoned industrial site featuring a more than 100-year history of industrial activity and fill including a lumber mill, foundry and scrap metal reclamation facility. The Main Yard was heavily contaminated with PCBs, lead, and PNAs. The site had become a visible blight on downtown Evansville. The second site, known as the “River Yard” was an abandoned industrial facility along the Ohio River that was used for transportation of scrap materials and was formerly a shipyard where Liberty Ships were manufactured for the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Michael Nelson, working alongside his partners at Hunsucker Goodstein & Nelson (“HGN”), was brought in to help the owner of the two sites, Allan Trockman of General Waste Products, develop a plan to obtain the resources to remediate the sites. This was necessary because General Waste Products had gone out of business three years prior and the owner had no known relevant assets. The lawyers of HGN developed a strategy to initially pursue General Waste Products’ insurance coverage from its long time carrier.
Using insurance resources, the investigation of the sites moved forward while HGN litigated with the insurance companies. After years of insurance litigation, HGN successfully negotiated a settlement with the insurance company which resulted in two important results. First, a Trust was created with a Federal Court appointed Trustee who was charged with both completing the investigation and remediation of the Site and pursuing the other potentially responsible parties (“PRPs”) to force them to pay their fair share of the investigation and remediation costs. Second, the insurer paid a multi-million dollar settlement into the Trust to fund initially the cost of remediating the Main Yard and provide a mechanism for recovering from the PRPs.
On behalf of the Trust, HGN then engaged in five years of litigation with some of the largest economic powers in Indiana – Vectren, Peabody Coal, and Bristol Meyers Mead Johnson. After succeeding with several motions for summary judgment, HGN was able to obtain a settlement with the PRPs which completed the full funding of the investigation and remediation of the Main Yard and River Yard. Overall, on behalf of the General Waste Products and the Trust, HGN was able to obtain millions of dollars in settlements and policy benefits to put towards the investigation, remediation and associated costs.
HGN, working as legal counsel to the Trustee, was able to obtain a Certificate of Completion and a Covenant Not to Sue from the State of Indiana under the Indiana Voluntary Remediation Program (“VRP”). On the Main Yard, HGN, along with the Trustee and the environmental consultant Apex, was able to address environmental impacts from more than 150 years of heavily industrialized use and redevelop the abandoned industrial property into a centerpiece of its Pigeon Creek Greenway recreational area. The parties additionally preserved the significant cultural history of the property on the banks of the Ohio River by preserving a historic crane that was used to load military LST ships from the river-front military works for use in the Normandy D-day invasion of World War II.
The River Yard was also fully remediated and is being put back into productive use by a local business as an enhanced commercial shipping facility.
Together, the two remediation projects will protect significant cultural history on the banks of the Ohio River by preserving a historic river-front ship building facility used in the Normandy D-day invasion of World War II. Further, the projects will create an important transportation option-allowing for the possible use of river traffic to move freight and materials.
This project has been so successful that it recently received national recognition for the Main Yard portion of the project. The National Association of Environmental Professionals named the project as the recipient of its 2011 National Environmental Excellence Award in the category of Environmental Stewardship. This project demonstrates that through hard work, perseverance and cooperation, even contaminated industrial areas can be transformed into safe, beautiful public parks and productive commercial properties.
The project’s impact has been recognized far from Indiana, as in 2012, the Site was visited by a delegation from China seeking to understand how successful projects come together.
Not all projects are this complicated or take this long to complete, but it provides a good example of what is possible with creativity and foresight.