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Duke Energy, Vectren to Begin Environmental Work at Former Liberty Industrial Site


PLAINFIELD, IND.-Duke Energy and Vectren will perform an environmental cleanup in the parking lot of the Union County Co-op, northwest of Campbell and Main streets, in Liberty.

Around mid-January, the companies will begin excavating tar and surrounding soil from a former industrial site at that location. Predecessor companies of Duke Energy and Vectren owned a plant that manufactured gas from oil and petroleum coke at that site from the late 1890s to 1935.

Before pipelines brought natural gas to the Midwest, gas was manufactured locally to serve the energy needs of hundreds of communities. Gas lamps lit streets and buildings in the 19th century until electricity became commonplace, while manufactured gas continued to fuel cooking and heating until the mid-20th century.

“The work is part of our program to clean up these former industrial sites where byproducts and residues were left behind,” said Kurt Phegley, Duke Energy’s area business relations manager. “We are working in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to clean up the site and bring it up to current environmental standards.”

Duke Energy and Vectren have contracted with Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company Inc., an engineering firm experienced with manufactured gas sites, to oversee and monitor the clean-up. Workers will primarily be excavating tar and surrounding soil from the ground and hauling it away for disposal. The tar has a strong tar and mothball-type of odor, which may be noticeable during some of the excavation.

The co-op plans to remain open during this time because the work is confined to the parking lot.

“We are going to do what we can to minimize the smell, but it can be hard to contain,” Phegley said. “At these levels, there’s typically no health threat, it’s just not pleasant to be around. While we’ll be working at the site for a few months, the odor will not be noticeable for that entire time. Continuous air monitoring will be done during the excavation. We are sorry for any inconvenience this work may cause.”

As with many industrial operations, gas manufacturing created byproducts, primarily tar. The tar was often sold for use in roofing and paving materials. When the plants were closed, however, tar and other residues were sometimes left on the properties, usually in underground structures.

Environmental laws require former owners and operators of industrial sites such as this to investigate the properties and, if necessary, clean them up.

Duke Energy’s Indiana operations provide approximately 7,300 net megawatts of electricity to approximately 775,000 electric customers, making it the state’s largest electric supplier.

Duke Energy, one of the largest electric power companies in the United States, supplies and delivers electricity to approximately 4 million U.S. customers and natural gas service to approximately 520,000 customers in its regulated jurisdictions. The company has approximately 35,000 net megawatts of electric generating capacity in the Midwest and the Carolinas, and natural gas distribution services in Ohio and Kentucky. In addition, Duke Energy has more than 4,000 net megawatts of electric generation in Latin America, and is a joint-venture partner in a U.S. real estate company.


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