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EPA hopes to recoup cost of Indiana fire cleanup

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to recoup the $2 million it spent to clean up a vacant northern Indiana plant damaged by a chemical fire.

EPA staff attorney Tom Turner in Chicago said the agency has been sending notices about the cost to a limited liability company called TJAC that bought the Baycote Metal Finishing site in Mishawaka in 2003. He said notices also have been sent to Joseph Hennessy, of Western Springs, Ill. Hennessy and his wife, Tammy, are listed on the county treasurer’s records as the contacts for TJAC.

Joseph Hennessy told the South Bend Tribune ( that he’s one of TJAC’s “many members” but said he didn’t know the exact number.

He said the property had been owned by his wife’s father, and then the TJAC investment group purchased it. An online listing at the Indiana Secretary of State’s website shows that TJAC dissolved in 2011.

Hennessy would not talk about whether the federal agency would be repaid.

“That will be part of our ongoing consultation with the EPA,” he said.

Hennessy said TJAC intends to work with the EPA to get the property certified so it can be sold.

Wendie House, the tax sales supervisor for St. Joseph County, said TJAC has to pay off about $391,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties by July 9, before the property can be sold.

A chemical fire at the former chrome-plating and metal-finishing plant in September temporarily forced thousands of Mishawaka residents from their homes.

That fire began when a contractor placed chemicals too close together at the site. The EPA hopes to have the site cleaned by the end of May.