PERU, Ind. — Peru’s mayor is alerting residents about environmental testing after a cancer-causing substance was discovered under the old Square D production plant.
The alert comes after Schneider Electric USA Inc. started testing the old factory for potential environmental issues in February 2022. During this testing, the mayor’s office said the company found the presence of trichloroethylene (TCE) underneath the facility.
An Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) report states this cancer-causing substance was likely used on the site as part of historic manufacturing processes, degreasing and metalwork.
The facility began operating in 1881. IDEM said the use of TCE was not regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency until the 1980s.
The National Cancer Institute says prolonged or repeated exposure to the substance causes kidney cancer. There is also evidence that may associate it with increased risks of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver cancer.
Schneider Electric acquired the facility in 1991 and shut down operations in May 2020 in “response to competitive market dynamics and to meet the needs” of customers.
IDEM said it signed a voluntary remediation agreement in February 2022 to conduct an investigation and cleanup of the facility. TCE was discovered between 5.5 feet and 11 feet below the ground surface. This warranted the expansion of investigations to the air inside homes.
The IDEM report states that when chemicals evaporate from soil and groundwater, the gas moves through soil and can accumulate beneath buildings and sewer lines. This can enter buildings and sewer lines through cracks and unsealed seams.
The mayor’s office said the discovery was reported to the city in June 2022, but they were only recently informed that Schneider intended to test inside surrounding residences.
I am deeply concerned for the citizens of Peru and the residents who live in this area. TheMayor Miles Hewitt
property owners who are going through this do not deserve these intrusions, burdens, and
fears; and deserve answers and information.
IDEM said homes they intend to test were mailed access request letters in early January. If a building has elevated levels of TCE, the department will require Schneider Electric to pay for and install a mitigation system. Additional measures may be taken to reduce or eliminate the source to reduce the risk of exposure.
Mayor Hewitt says his office and the city of Peru will demand answers from Schneider and IDEM. Anyone with questions about the process can contact Schneider Electric’s environmentalist at (508) 549-6004, or IDEM at (317) 232-8517.