Environmental concerns raised in near northwest side, Drewery's Brewery

NOW: Environmental concerns raised in near northwest side, Drewery’s Brewery

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — How a home on the near northwest side of South Bend turns into an empty lot has raised concerns from nearby neighbors. 

Photos show dust that filled the air when contractors tore down a home on Scott Street. However, the problem is workers didn’t use water to keep what neighbor John Horton said was lead and asbestos from spreading. 

“To see that nothing is being enforced it’s discouraging,” he said. 

In an e-mail to the city’s department of code enforcement, South Bend Common Councilwoman Regina Williams-Preston mentioned seeing a similar demolition in progress. She noted in the e-mail how she watched workers not spraying down the debris and the dust billowing. 

On Wednesday, ABC 57 News spoke with the Director of Code Enforcement Tracy Skibins who said after receiving Williams-Preston’s note, she immediately followed her department’s procedure which is calling the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

“Code enforcement doesn’t have a way to measure contaminants in the air so we make sure to reach out to IDEM,” Skibins said. 

IDEM is a state agency that has several open cases in the city, including the Drewery’s Brewery site. On Thursday, Williams-Preston plans to have a community meeting giving updates on clean-up at the site. 

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 26 at 6 p.m. inside the County-City Building. 

“The issue is we have a problem we have had bad acts on both sides or there’s alleged bad acts on both sides,” said Williams-Preston. “And for me tomorrow he meeting is really about standing in the middle and saying let’s focus on what’s most important.”

In August, IDEM reported finding asbestos at the site and ordered the property owner Steve Durkee to clean it up. According to code enforcement, clean up of the site could cost more than $1 million.  

Skibins said she will not be attending Thursday’s meeting, but she’s in support of it. She said she encourages the public to go to the meeting and hold the owner accountable for the cleanup. 

“Ask him to clean up the property because that all we ever wanted here in code enforcement,” said Skibins. "I’m hopeful that the meeting tomorrow is productive, but I’m a little I’m not very optimistic just because of his track history.”

Durkee has received several tickets, court summons, and civil penalties over the years. Skibins said Durkee has had seven opportunities to speak with her office but that Durkee has only shown up once. 

On a call with Durkee, who lives in Arizona, he told ABC 57 News that he will not be at the meeting on Thursday because he is sick. 

“We’re interested in getting community feedback and hear from people and you know I approach this as if this was my neighborhood,” Durkee said. 

The city’s Common Council President Tim Scott, who will not be attending Thursday’s meeting, said neighbors just want the site cleaned up. However, Scott said he’s in support of the meeting. 

“You know for all the talking that anybody wants to do on it all we need is dump trucks to come start,” Scott said. 

The clean-up of the Drewery’s site is currently a state case. Therefore, the city’s code enforcement cannot take any action at the site. 

However, neighbors disagree. 

“It’s the city's responsibility to see to it that private landowners and contractors follow the laws in place,” said Horton. 

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