IDEM gives all clear to resume sewer project

COLUMBIA CITY — Contaminated soil found under railroad tracks in Columbia City has been cleared to be reintroduced.Earlier this year, crews installing sewer lines under railroad tracks on South Line Street discovered oily dirt. The crews were in the process of boring under the tracks to insert new sewer line, a process called jack and bore.Work was halted when the contaminated soil was discovered and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management was contacted.The issue involved not only the city, which was running the sewer lines, but also the county since the boring operations were being done at the site of the Whitley County fueling facility.In jack and bore, a pit, known as a launch pit is dug on one side of where the boring will begin. On the other side, a receiving pit is dug. The pits are about 20 feet deep.An auger cuts through the soil, allowing the insertion of a steel casing in which sewer pipe can be easily inserted.At South Line Street, on property owned by Whitley County, contaminated soil was discovered in January.The contamination is believed to be lubricating oil, Columbia City Outside Operations Manager Jeff Walker said in January.He said the contamination was probably pre-existing and was there before the county owned the property.The city and county coordinated with IDEM and received word earlier this month that the soil could be put back in the hole, according to County Commissioner Tom Rethlake during his commissioners’ report to the Whitley County Council Tuesday.“None of that soil, if removed, can be put back on county property,” he said.Walker said the jack and bore process on Line Street spans about 200 feet and is about a 10-day process.