Crews will dig out more than 1,500 tons of dirt from a property in downtown Franklin as part of an effort to clean up any contamination left behind from old gas plants.

Work is starting on a remediation project to a property on Jefferson Street where an Indiana American Water tower stands.

Residents and downtown workers can expect more truck traffic in the area, as crews remove loads of dirt, and may notice the smell of tar or mothballs as the dirt is removed, according to a notice from Duke Energy, which is doing the remediation project.

Workers will be continuously monitoring air quality as the work is done, according to Duke Energy. Crews will try to lessen any odors using foam meant to control odors, the notice said.

This is the second remediation project Duke has done in Franklin to remove tar in the soil and underground that was produced as a byproduct when a manufactured gas plant operated at the site from 1900 until 1930. The gas manufactured there was used for lighting homes and businesses, and later for cooking and heating. In 2012, crews did similar work on Home Avenue and in Province Park, where a plant previously had been located.

When the site was a natural gas plant, coal was burned to manufacture synthetic gas. The process of extracting gas from the coal leaves behind residual chemicals, including benzine and thick tar, and at the time, that was either dumped on the ground or buried.

When the plant was closed, that tar remained on the property. That tar includes certain chemicals, which can be environmental concerns if not handled properly.

The chemicals are also used in products such as fuel, asphalt, moth balls, dyes and driveway sealers, according to Duke Energy.

Duke Energy officials do not believe there is any health threat at the site because the tar is buried underground, and would not likely come into contact with the water at the Indiana American Water facility. The Indiana American Water tank is above ground, with a concrete pad and surrounded in steel, so the water stored there is not in contact with the soil. The pipes that carry the water are also on the other side of the property, away from the contamination, Indiana American Water officials have said.

Duke Energy still needs to meet today’s environmental standards and therefore is removing the tar. The dirt and tar removed from the site will be taken to a regulated landfill.

Multiple soil bearings were done to determine exactly where the contamination is so it can be removed, which is limited to a confined area, Duke Energy spokesman Lew Middleton said.

Work is expected to take about four weeks, he said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.