Haymarket arena plans
The future Haymarket arena was one of many issues debated by Leadership Lincoln groups over the past 25 years. (Courtesy image)

The Environmental Protection Agency will test most -- but not all -- of the land the city would buy if it builds an arena west of the Haymarket.

Union Pacific says it won't give access to its land until it has a purchase agreement with the city.

This week the EPA began testing for contaminants in the area targeted by the city for an arena, roads, bridges, parking and privately developed shops, offices, housing and a hotel.

Last week, the EPA indicated the results of those tests wouldn't be done until after the May 11 election -- when voters will decide the fate of the project -- but on Tuesday the agency announced it would expedite the analysis so the final report is in by April 30.

A Kansas City contractor hired by the EPA is taking soil and groundwater samples that will give the city more information about the type and extent of contamination and cleanup options, but not cleanup cost estimates.

Still, the results should help the city determine whether its $7.5 million cleanup cost estimate is on the mark.

But EPA spokesman Chris Whitley said it's up to the city to get access to the land -- which consists of seven parcels owned by six entities, two of which have not yet granted access -- Union Pacific and Alter Trading Co., which owns a scrap yard.

Miki Esposito, senior policy aide to Mayor Chris Beutler, said an agreement with Alter is expected to be reached and HWS Inc. of Lincoln already did a limited phase two analysis -- the same type of analysis the EPA is doing -- on Alter's land in October 2008.

Union Pacific will not allow access to its property until a purchase agreement is in place. The railroad company's spokesman, Tom Lange, said that is company policy.

But Esposito noted Union Pacific's land is west of the railroad tracks and in an area that would primarily be used for green space and stormwater mitigation.

Said Beutler's chief of staff, Rick Hoppe: "It's not the majority of the project."

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway owns the vast majority of the land in the development area, and almost all of the land on which buildings would be built that hold people, such as the arena, shops, stores, offices, housing and an ice center.

The other properties are owned by Marathon LLC, which owns a parking lot north of the INS building; the Lincoln Depot Limited Partnership, which owns parking lots north and south of Lincoln Station, and Jaylynn, a limited liability corporation that owns property along the spur track centerline.

Esposito said the contractor finished drilling holes to the depth of groundwater in known contaminated areas on BNSF property Wednesday. The contractor is scheduled to begin field work on the depot parking lots and Jaylynn property next week, she said.

Samples are being taken by Seagull Environmental Technologies of Kansas City, Kan.

The city has budgeted $7.5 million to clean up the contaminated area, which the mayor's office says is a worst-case scenario figure. Critics and arena opponents contend it's difficult to pinpoint cleanup costs without the kind of detailed environmental analysis that will be done after the city buys the property. The city is exploring the possibility of getting insurance on the railyard.

The city has previously contracted with HWS to do environmental studies in the area, but the work being done by the EPA will be more in-depth.

The city's tentative agreement to buy land from BNSF is contingent upon the city bearing all the cleanup costs and indemnifying BNSF.

Reach Deena Winter at 473-2642 or dwinter@journalstar.com.

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