Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dry Cleaning and Coal Gas Still Haunt Florida Community

By: Duane Craig

Sanford, Florida, has the dubious distinction of having not one, but two high level contaminated sites within its boundaries, and one of those is sending its pollution closer to Lake Monroe, according to this story at WFTV.com, Channel 9.

Dry cleaning business contaminating Lake Monroe

The old dry cleaning business on Palmetto Avenue in the heart of historic, downtown Sanford is on the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List because there is tetrachloroethene (PCE) and its biodegradation products, such as trichloroethene (TCE), in the soil and ground water at the site. The land housed a series of dry cleaning businesses from the 1940s to 2001. Interestingly the highest levels of the chemicals were found near the back door of the buildings on 121 South Palmetto while 150 feet from the site, well water has been found to have PCE breakdown chemicals. The groundwater is contaminated down to 45 feet and that's a potential concern since the drinking water aquifer is only another 45 feet down. The 15 municipal water wells are all within 4 miles of the site. They serve about 50,000 people. The other property involved in this NPL site is at 113 South Palmetto.

Further testing is aimed at checking the water in the aquifer and investigating a related contaminated site within two blocks. Another major focus is to assess if the toxins are airborne. One of the complications at this site is the extensive ground cover of asphalt and concrete, making it challenging to assess and remediate.

Sanford's other site goes back a long way -- to the days when coal was turned into gas. The Sanford Gasification Plant operated on both sides of West 6th Street between Holly Avenue and Cedar Avenue beginning in the 1880s. It produced water gas and carbureted water gas until 1951 using carbonization and distillation of coal and coke techniques. The main contaminants at this site are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. This site is not on the National Priorities List, but would be if it wasn't being handled under the agency's Superfund Alternative Approach. That approach uses the same investigations and cleanup as those used on the NPL, but the responsible parties carry all costs of remediation, which usually saves resources in the long run. This approach is however, used in a small percentage of all Superfund sites.

During the investigation to determine the proper cleanup procedures, this site turned up contamination that was four times greater than originally thought. That caused the cleanup techniques to be modified so the contaminants would be less likely to migrate. For shallow contamination the soil was removed and disposed of while for deeper pollution the soil was solidified and stabilized in place. Cleanup was completed by early 2011 and monitoring wells were drilled for the long-term process of watching for movement of contaminants.
So far, the dry cleaner site has not been cleaned up.

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