We continue to learn more about the situation at the old Baycote building, the source of the fire and chemical cloud that prompted hundreds of people in Mishawaka to flee their homes Friday night.
Ever since the EPA took over cleanup at the site back in May, the agency has been documenting the process with pictures, seen here: http://www.epaosc.org/site/image_list.aspx?site_id=7560
At the point that the feds stepped in, there was still about 52,000 gallons of waste inside, left over from the chemicals used to coat metal for auto parts.
The containers that were found inside are described as "leaky" and "corroded" by the EPA.
The EPA says the building is run-down with a partially collapsed roof and some flooding inside. The site has raised red flags for IDEM, the St. Joseph County Health Department and the city of Mishawaka for years.
"Really, the site was abandoned and left to be a burden on the community," Former Mishawaka mayor Jeff Rea told WSBT.
Rea says that as recently as this year, a potential buyer was interested in the property, but all the unresolved problems at the Baycote site killed that opportunity. Not only was dangerous waste left behind, but so was an unpaid county tax bill that totals hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"We identified really a whole track record of difficulty with this property," said Rea. "Now it's a great challenge for the city to move forward. Hopefully initial safety concerns are resolved and the long-term goal is to get it back on the tax rolls and get a new user in there."
The cleanup is expected to cost taxpayers $2 million. The local spokesman at the site says once the job is done, the EPA will go to the Department of Justice to try and make the out-of-state owner pay up. The owner lives in Illinois and essentially just walked away from the place years ago.
"I don't intend to leave until the threat is eliminated to the public," says Paul Atkociunas of the EPA.
Atkociunas estimates that the cleanup at Baycote will likely take until November of this year.