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Indianapolis Residential Vapor Intrusion Site

Site Contact:
Danita Larry
On-Scene Coordinator


Site Location:
2080 Dr. Andrew J Brown Avenue
Indianapolis, IL 46202

Site Update - March 22, 2024

This week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began indoor air sampling at homes around the former Williamson Polishing & Plating site in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis. The EPA anticipates sampling to be complete by the end of the month.   


Groundwater near the former Williamson Polishing & Plating shop is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Multiple contamination sources in the area are contributing to the commingled (blended) groundwater plume. The primary VOCs include tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). Both chemicals dissolve easily in water and can stay in groundwater for a long time.


When chemicals such as PCE and TCE or petroleum products spill or leak into the ground, they may give off gases or vapors that can get inside buildings, such as homes. The vapors can move through the soil and seep through cracks in basements or foundations, sewer lines, and other openings. Common products that may cause vapor intrusion are gasoline or diesel fuel, dry cleaning solvents, and industrial degreasers. Some vapors have a gasoline odor, and others are odorless and tasteless, such as PCE and TCE. Therefore, the only way to determine if vapor intrusion is happening is to sample the air within and underneath a home or business.


Vapor intrusion is a concern because vapors can build up to a point where the health of residents or workers may be at risk. Health risks vary based on the type and amount of chemicals, although how healthy you are and how long you are exposed are also factors. Until these vapors are vented from the indoor air, some people may experience symptoms that could include eye and respiratory irritation, headaches, or nausea. Low-level chemical exposures over many years, however, may lead to chronic disease, including cancer. Long-term exposures are especially dangerous for children, pregnant women, or people with underlying health conditions.


Save the Date:

On Saturday April 6, 2024, the EPA will attend the Martindale-Brightwood Community Health Service Day Event at Martin University to provide information about vapor intrusion to the community. If you live within the area of concern, you may be eligible for indoor air sampling. Stop by our booth between 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. to sign up.  



The site is two miles northeast of the Indianapolis central business district in a primarily commercial and industrial area, with some nearby residential properties. Groundwater contamination at the site comes from multiple former industrial facilities.


Removal Action and Vapor Intrusion Studies

On October 31 and November 1, 2016, the EPA took emergency actions to secure the facility. On November 29, 2016, the EPA signed an action memorandum to conduct a time-critical removal action from December 2016 to May 2017. Cleanup involved removing and disposing abandoned hazardous waste inside the Williamson Polishing & Plating property. The EPA also decontaminated plating equipment, vats, tanks, piping, and other parts used for plating.

As part of the cleanup, the EPA received and evaluated analytical results from groundwater and soil gas sampling conducted in April 2017 to evaluate the vapor intrusion pathway near residential properties.

The EPA previously detected TCE above the vapor intrusion screening level (VISL) in soil gas samples at the former facility. Concentrations of chemicals above the VISL are considered to be sufficiently volatile and toxic to warrant an investigation of the soil gas intrusion pathway. In the samples collected from the residential area, TCE was detected above the groundwater vapor intrusion screening in four groundwater samples. TCE was detected in three soil gas samples, but all concentrations were below the soil gas VISL. The EPA did not take any additional action at the time because a completed vapor intrusion pathway could not be established. 


Sources of Contamination

Several investigations were conducted between 2017 and 2020 and identified likely VOC sources located above a commingled (blended) chlorinated hydrocarbon plume (mass of contaminants) which migrates in a generally southwest orientation beneath the site area.

The blended plume is thought to originate from the following locations:


Major Tool and Machine property at 1458 East 19th Street

  • This property encompasses the combined parcels formerly occupied by Ertel Manufacturing Corp., Zimmer Paper and Custom Made Packaging, and Moran Motor Shop and Dynamometer Building. The former Ertel facility located at 2045 Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue (formerly Martindale Avenue), located adjacent to the east and up-gradient from the site, generated hazardous wastes including spent halogenated solvents used in degreasing. This facility is no longer in operation and is no longer generating hazardous wastes.


Former plating property at 2104 Dr. AJB Avenue

  • The former plating facility to the north of the site may be the cause of the groundwater and soil gas impacts observed beneath and to the west/southwest of the site. Various metal plating companies operated on the property from the 1950s to approximately 2006. This location is considered a potential source of groundwater contamination based on the extended period of time that metal plating facilities operated on this property, the lack of information regarding the soil and groundwater conditions on the property, the hydraulically up-gradient location of the property relative to the site, and soil and groundwater impacts observed.


Williamson Polishing & Plating

  • The contribution of the Williamson shop to the site impacts is not fully known. Williamson Polishing & Plating was a plating shop in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis, Indiana. The business began operating in 1937 and operated until 2016 when the company went out of business. The facility conducted job shop polishing and electroplating services by plating brass, cadmium, copper, chrome, silver, tin, zinc, bronze, and nickel finishes on various substrates for its customers.