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Richmond asks EPA to investigate and clean up site of massive industrial fire

pile of rubble behind a fence
City of Richmond
The remains of the former My Way Trading warehouse.

It's been a month since a massive fire at a former plastics recycling facility spewed plumes of black smoke and debris into the skies above Richmond, Ind. and neighboring communities. The city's mayor Thursday issued a status update on the cleanup effort.

"We have learned a lot over the last month," writes Mayor Dave Snow. "More importantly, we have witnessed the heroism of our first responders, the collaborative spirit of our county, state, and federal partners, and the resiliency and compassion of our community."

Snow says the city has formally requested the EPA investigate the environmental effects and take over cleaning up the site. Sampling is stated to begin May 15.

Previously: Massive Richmond, Ind., fire prompts evacuations and concerns

"Although the full cleanup effort will take quite some time, we're working diligently to get it moving," Snow writes.

A city spokesperson said Snow was not available Thursday to comment further. The EPA says it plans to issue a news release Friday.

The release outlines four initial steps:

  1. Identification of the materials/debris on the site.
  2. Development of a plan to safely remove and properly dispose of the materials/debris.
  3. Safe removal and disposal of the materials/debris.
  4. Follow-up environmental testing at the site.

Status reports are being posted on thecityand EPA websites.

On May 5, the EPA reported it finished collecting debris from Richmond residents. In total, the agency says it collected debris from 330 public and private properties in Indiana and Ohio. It also did visual inspections at 512 additional locations "and found no evidence of presumed asbestos-containing material."

A group of Richmond residents and a business owner have filed a class action lawsuit against the owner of My Way Trading.

As Indiana Public Broadcasting's Rebecca Thiele reported in April, the suit alleges the owner of My Way Trading knew the property was unsafe, but didn't take necessary steps to address it — leading to the events that caused the fire.

RELATED: Richmond, Ind., residents sue owner of property where massive industrial fire occurred

The law firm representing residents has said it expects more people may join the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks at least $25,000 in damages. Attorney Trevor Crossen has said he believes the city is also partly responsible for the fire and could face legal action in the future, adding the city owns part of the property and knew My Way Trading was a fire hazard waiting to happen.

The city's attorney has said Richmond may pursue its own lawsuit against the company.

The fire broke out April 11, burning across 14 acres at a former factory site full of plastics. The fire burned for several days before it was extinguished, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes and dropping black debris across Wayne County, Ind., and communities across the state border in Ohio.

Indiana Public Broadcasting's Rebecca Thiele contributed to this report.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.