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Chemical cleanup hastened

Federal officials put the former Alaric Inc. site in Orient Park on a priority list, hoping to stop groundwater pollution.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 8, 2000


TAMPA -- Fearing the spread of dangerous chemicals into local drinking water sources, the federal government will undertake an accelerated cleanup schedule at the former Alaric Inc. site in Orient Park, the government's project manager said.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added Alaric to its national priorities list, part of the Superfund program targeting the nation's most polluted properties for cleanup.

The 1.7-acre Alaric site joined the list despite a Florida Department of Health report showing no immediate danger to surrounding residents. The report, performed for EPA, concluded the contaminated underground water was traveling south, away from homes, and that residents were safe because most use municipal water instead of well water.

But EPA, which is involved with the nearby Helena Chemical Company Superfund site, views longer-term risks in larger geographic areas when deciding whether to undertake cleanups, project manager Brad Jackson said.

In just several years, the plume of contaminated underground water has doubled in size, raising concerns the chemicals will endanger both city and private wells within a 4-mile radius of the site, he said. Consequently, the agency is speeding up its normal review process by several years.

Workers will undertake a $3-million project over the next year, installing an on-site groundwater pump and treatment plant and treating contaminated soil with potassium permanganate, which breaks down the dangerous chemicals and averts having to remove them to a landfill.

EPA officials will start meeting with local residents in January, Jackson said.

Alaric operated the site from 1981 to 1986, recycling plastics and making acrylic coatings. Records show both EPA and the state have known about contamination since the late 1980s but Jackson said EPA was not aware of the severity until 1998, when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection asked it to assume responsibility for the cleanup.

DEP officials could not be reached for comment.

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