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Indiana State Senator Lonnie Randolph, left, and Summit owner Peter Coulopoulos

Summit owner Coulopoulos defends his auto scrap yard

Contributed By: The 411 News

"Nobody has gotten sick and died from my place"

“I’ve been scrapping cars since I was 12 and never get sick; don’t even catch colds or the flu,” Peter Coulopoulos said. The 70-year-old owner of Summit, Inc., a vehicle recycler didn’t speak at IDEM’s public hearing, but had something to say afterwards.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management hearing held on May 15 at the Gary Public Library asked for public comments on an environmental clean-up plan at Summit, neighbor to the Gary/Chicago International Airport along the junction of Industrial Boulevard and Chicago Avenue.

“I’ve been working on this property since 1966. My 4 sons work here. You think I would expose my children,” Coulopoulos said. “Nobody has got sick and died from my place.”

But three members of Indiana’s House of Representatives, 3 Indiana State Senators, the mayor of Gary and other speakers said the auto scrap yard is endangering the health and safety of thousands who live and work nearby. Their comments will be part of the record IDEM is compiling to help make a decision on Summit’s plan to clean up its property.

Summit’s Modified Closure Plan is proposing to stop operations on less than one acre of the 38-acre site, and perform soil and groundwater testing that will take it into 2030. Some speakers asked for a wider closure plan while others asked for a complete shutdown of Summit.

“We don’t have the luxury of that kind of time because we are living and working next to 20 cancer-causing chemicals every single day,” said Gary Airport Atty. Thomas Sokolowski. “We urge IDEM to reject this plan. In 2014, both the EPA and IDEM ordered the entire site to be cleaned up. Today, the site hasn’t been cleaned up and they haven’t paid any fines.”

“Environmental justice has been a core pillar of this administration and it is firmly opposed to the revised timeline proposed by the modified closure,” Gary Mayor Eddie Melton said,

“Many Gary residents are familiar with this site. It has been negligent with its management over the years and has resulted in multiple fires and explosions,” Melton said. “It is next to our airport that we’re trying to grow as Chicago’s third airport.”

“We’re an ally with the City of Gary on this,” said Carolyn McCrady of GARD (Gary Advocates for Responsible Development).

“The place needs to be cleaned up. It would be best for the community if it were shut down. It seems like a bureaucratic snafu that it hasn’t been shut down. For years, Mr. Coulopoulos has avoided doing anything,” said GARD President Dorreen Carey.

Coulopoulos said Summit is working with IDEM and the EPA. “We have physical emissions logs, fugitive dust logs that we turn into IDEM every year. We spend probably $190,000 a year on compliance.”

“These leaders that said those things about me don’t even know me. It makes me want to cry. That attorney, everything he said was a lie,” Coulopoulos said. “The airport wants my land, but they don’t have the money to pay me for it.”

Brian Robinson spoke up for his employer. “I haven’t been with Summit long. All I’ve been hearing about Summit is bad, bad, bad. They’re a good company. If you snatch jobs from the 60 people who work here, what are they going to do? How are they going to take care of their families?”

”If you snatch jobs from the 60 people who work here, what are they going to do?” said Summit employee Brian Robinson.

Story Posted:05/22/2024

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