I-TEAM: Residents ready for cleanup to begin 3 months after toxic Richmond fire

RICHMOND, Ind. — Today marks three months since the massive toxic fire at a plastics recycling facility in Richmond, Indiana and people living and working near the fire site have been waiting weeks for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) test results of the debris.

What’s left of the fire site takes up nearly the entire block behind a locked fence. The only people News Center 7 has seen go behind the fence are United States EPA crews when they took samples from the debris nearly two months ago. People in town want tot see those results so the cleanup can start.

>> RELATED: EPA begins testing debris at site of toxic fire in Richmond

“You can still smell that fire, I mean the smoke and stuff from it every time you walk by there,” Jim Holliday, of Richmond, said.

Jenny Tinkle works right across the street from the site. She told the I-Team’s John Bedell Tuesday that she, like Holliday, wants to see the massive debris pile removed. That can’t happen until the EPA confirms with debris testing what potential hazmat is in the piles left over from the fire.

“Anyone around this area, I’m sure, is very interested in what those results are,” Tinkle said.

When the federal agency took the samples the week of May 15, crews told Bedell that what they find will determine who cleans up the debris, how it has to be cleaned up safely, and to which kind of waste facility the material will go once crews removed it from the fire site.

Bedell went to the Richmond City Building Tuesday to talk to the mayor about the wait for the EPA’s results. Mayor Dave Snow declined an on-camera interview and said since the EPA’s findings haven’t been put into a report yet, it would be premature for the city to anticipate what’s going to be in the report. Snow added that once the city has that information from the EPA, they’ll evaluate it and determine the proper next steps.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Richmond Toxic Fire: Residents concerned about how long cleanup process will take

“We would love to see it cleaned up, but we understand it’s a lot,” Tinkle said. “I mean, it’s a lot to clean up.”

The I-Team has emailed the EPA twice in the last six days asking about their work in Wayne County. On Thursday, Bedell asked the agency if they had an update on when they’ll release their debris sample test results. A spokesperson wrote back saying they expected to get the validated results by the end of the week and would then publish them on a specific website for the fire.

When Bedell asked if the “end of the week” referred to last Friday or if it would go into the weekend, the spokesperson said there was a possibility it could go into the weekend, but they were hopeful to have them by Friday.

As of Tuesday, the agency has not published any results.

The I-Team reached out again today and the EPA said they “are still waiting for the full validated analytical results. The lab anticipates having those by the end of the week.”

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