It was good to see state environmental regulars, after such a long record of pitiful enforcement, finally move against Coronet Industries. The Department of Environmental Protection said for the first time Wednesday that toxins from the Plant City factory appear to be linked to polluted drinking water found near the eastern Hillsborough County plant. More tests are needed to establish the cause and extent of the pollution, and to quantify the health risks to anyone who drank the water. But at least the government has been compelled to act.
New monitoring wells on the border of Coronet's property line are showing elevated levels of boron, which can irritate the eyes, throat and internal organs. Because tests from six nearby drinking water wells show elevated boron readings, the DEP said the pollutants from Coronet's property "may be moving beyond the facility's boundary."
Regulators will give the company two weeks to respond. If the plant is at fault, the agency will push for the company to clean up what it suspects is a leaky pond of industrial wastewater. Some wells on nearby residences also show elevated levels of arsenic, but the DEP does not have enough data to link those findings to Coronet. Tests are continuing.
While the DEP's tough stance should offer worried residents some comfort, it shouldn't have taken regulators years to address the known environmental problems at Coronet. DEP Secretary David Struhs has ordered an internal investigation into his department's lax enforcement, asking officials "to thoroughly review how we got into the current situation at Coronet and what we might do to make sure this does not happen again." That report should guide reforms to make the agency more responsive. In the meantime, the DEP should keep the public informed of ongoing pollution test results.