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What lead to Baycote abandonment?

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – ABC 57 is piecing together the timeline that lead to large amounts of hazardous waste being left behind at the former Baycote Metal Finishing Building. EPA crews are now cleaning up the site. On Friday a fire at the facility caused a massive evacuation that has brought the site to Michiana’s attention.

"We knew that it was a time bomb or a powder keg so that’s why it got the priority in my administration that it did," said Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood.

Wood said his office learned of the dangers inside the former Baycote Building in August of 2011.

"We got a report from one of the neighbors that it was starting to look like it could potentially be hazardous to the community," he said.

Wood said the city sent out Code Enforcement and secured the building so no one could get inside.

The city then reached out for help. Wood said they contacted the St. Joseph County Health Department, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the EPA Baycote shut down in 2008. At that time there were 110,000 gallons of waste on site.

In 2009, the property owners TJAC, LLC, worked out an agreement with the state to clean up the hazardous material.

The EPA’s website said the property owners stopped work in February 2010. At that time there were still 50,000 gallons of waste still inside the facility.

"They weren’t willing or able to conduct the clean up so we had to step in to take it over," said EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator Paul Atkociunas.

Atkociunas said his crew has been there since the end of May. They have tons of experience cleaning up hazardous waste including working at the World Trade center and cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina.

He said even after all that, the Baycote Site is unique.

"This one is pretty unique with the volume of material that was left on site and obviously it’s been abandoned for four years," said Atkociunas.

He said they’re still working to identify the exact properties of the materials that caught fire on Friday.

"Obviously there was a chemical reaction so some of that has changed and there has been a degradation product so we just want to be safe and cautious and fully understand what's involved," he said.

Once they’re identified the EPA will find a safe place to dispose of the material.

The entire clean-up project at Baycote is expected to be finished by November.

"We’re doing our best to ensure that they get handled safely and we’ve managed a substantial amount of that and focus on the completion of the project," said Atkociunas.

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