When an industrial property is abandoned, more than just empty buildings and broken dreams are left to molder. Sometimes debris, hazardous materials, and contaminated soil and water are present. In these cases, more than just looters and trespassers are at risk of being harmed if allowed to enter an abandoned site. Children, pets, the transient, and others attracted to open, empty spaces may inadvertently be injured as well.
Until cleanup is initiated, as in the case of an abandoned plating factory in Evansville, Indiana, temporary fencing will keep people and animals away from the vacant site. Here are just a few of the hazards that the fence is protecting Evansville residents from.
Important for chrome plating to give steel a polished, shiny coating, chromium resists corrosion very well. Chromium in the air, water, or soil, unfortunately, is not so good. In its hexavalent form, chromium causes rash and lung irritation at the very least. Long-term exposure of hexavalent chromium weakens the immune system, damages the liver and kidneys, and causes lung cancer and death. As an added delight, chromium alters genetic material – the DNA inherited from parents. Remember the movie Erin Brokovich? 16 tons of chromium was removed from the site in Evansville.
This clear liquid known as TCE is a cold-cleaning and vapor degreasing solvent for the electroplating process. When TCE contaminates soil, it evaporates slowly over time and will contaminate the air in any future buildings above the site, a process called vapor intrusion. Inhabitants feel dizzy, sleepy, or have headaches.
Or, TCE enters the groundwater where it cannot evaporate. If that contaminated groundwater becomes part of a public drinking water system, it presents long-term problems to the nervous system. TCE exposure causes kidney and liver cancer.
Hauled from the abandoned plating site were over 5 tons of scrap metal. Aluminum, iron and steel that rest hidden in weed piles and lurking in pits slowly rust over time, their gleam slowly diminished. If cut or punctured with sharp metal, a victim is faced with possible infection. Dirt beneath or around the metal may contain clostridia tetani spores, which cause tetanus.
Stored improperly in leaking, open, and unmarked containers were found various liquids. Nitric acid, one identified liquid discovered at the site, was used to dissolve metals during the plating process. An unsuspecting person or animal coming into contact with nitric acid receives burns and ulcers on the skin, and inhaling the fumes causes coughing, pneumonitis and pulmonary edema. Over 1400 gallons of acidic liquids were removed from the plating site.