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Great Lakes Article:

Residents feel trapped by pollution
Associated Press
04/15/03


THE PINES, Ind. -- Gordon Tharp does not know why anyone would want to buy the dream house he built near Lake Michigan 30 years ago. He wouldn't.

Tharp and many other residents of this scenic, wooded town feel stuck because their homes are virtually impossible to sell after years of groundwater pollution. The area has been named a Superfund cleanup site by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Steve Baker, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Michigan City, said that during the busiest times, not much property was sold in The Pines.

"Ten years ago, there was a little more, but not a lot," Baker told The Times of Munster.

During the past two decades, the town's Yard 520 landfill is estimated to have received more than a million tons of fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal to create electricity, from the Michigan City plant of Northern Indiana Public Service Co. The EPA this year identified the fly ash and landfill as sources of the well-water contamination.

Tharp, 61, used to dream of retiring to the South and says he would leave if he could.

"But," he said, "you can't afford to take the loss."

He worries more, though, about the cost he and his family may already have paid. He is concerned about his four children and six grandchildren, who come to visit.

"What have I done to them?" he said. "I may have hurt them and not even known it."

Cathi Murray, who lives nearby, knows the feeling. The preschool teacher does not believe the house she and her husband, Alan, own has real value. Nonetheless, they pay several hundred dollars of property tax each year.

"We didn't pick a Superfund site," she said. "It happened to us."

The Murrays bought their home in 1989, before their children were born. Now Murray wonders whether the rare bowel disorder Jessica Ann, 10, was born with and the hearing impairment Alana, 8, developed had something to do with drinking the water during pregnancy.

"To think I drank a lot of water when I was pregnant. Did all that water have something to do with the way my children were created?" she said. "I don't know."

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