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Health concerns surrounding Marion County criminal justice center

Posted at 5:53 PM, May 23, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — There are environmental and health concerns about the proposed Marion County Criminal Justice Center. The new facility is set for a place that was once the home to a gas manufacturing plant for 100 years.

The groundbreaking for the sprawling 140-acre campus was last year, and prep work was in the midst on Thursday.

In a consultant report, 14 different chemicals are identified in the soil, among them arsenic, lead, naphthalene, iron, mercury, and benzene. Some of them carcinogenic and all of them concerning to Bob Hammerle, who sits on the Public Defenders Board of Directors.

"It doesn't make sense. If it's not suitable for a house, to build a home there," Hammerle said. "How in God's name is it suitable to have inmates in a jail live out there for months, and sometimes for a year at a time. It's just as damaging to them as it is for people living in a home."

Hammerle told RTV6 that by him doing this interview, it was not going to make him much liked. But, Hammerle says he is concerned about the health and safety of inmates, police, prosecutors and public defenders.

The public defender's office would have offices in that new building. And Bob Hill, the chief public defender, has heard concerns from his workers.

"I've got clients who are gonna be living in that jail. I've got 267 staff members who will be functioning out there on a daily basis," Hill said. "It should be a concern for everyone."

The consultant's conclusion is the following:

"Based on our review.. an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment does not appear likely assuming... the vapor mitigation system is installed and operated in accordance with the applicable IDEM guidance."

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management must give final approval on the cleanup efforts.