TARPON SPRINGS — The cleanup of the hazardous mess left behind decades ago by a chemical plant along the Anclote River will finally begin next month.
"After many, many years of studies and tests on what we should finally do with the site, we are at a point where remediation can start," said Bob Shay of Stauffer Management Co. at a meeting Thursday at Tarpon Springs Library to discuss the plan. "We can understand over the years people in the community are probably a little skeptical, and that's understandable too."
Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, contractors hired to perform the work and a representative from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection also attended Thursday's meeting.
On Wednesday, the same officials met with emergency services and health department personnel from Pasco and Pinellas counties and Tarpon Springs.
Workers will began showing up at the 130-acre site early next month with the bulk of them arriving in mid May. The project is expected to be completed in July 2011.
The plant was built and operated by Victor Chemical Co. and began production in 1947. In 1960, Stauffer Chemical Co. bought the plant and it continued to produce elemental phosphorous until it closed in 1981. The phosphorus-processing plant left 30 toxic substances in the water and soil, including arsenic, lead and radium-226.
The EPA put the area on its Superfund list in 1994. The cleanup is expected to cost upward of $10 million and will be paid for by Stauffer.
The plan calls for a 10- to 20-foot-deep wall to be built around ponds in a 29-acre area of the southern parcel. The area will then be sealed with a watertight cap. A cap also will be put on an 18 1/2-acre area of a northern parcel.
A seawall will be built on the eastern side of Meyers Cove and along a portion of the Anclote River shoreline.
Workers at the plant were exposed to asbestos, lead, sulfur dioxide and other contaminants that could cause an increased risk of cancer.
During the cleanup, air will be tested every 15 minutes to ensure that contaminants are not spread.
Construction equipment will also have air monitoring capabilities.
While there has been talk about the site being turn into a boat storage area, Shay said Stauffer has no immediate plans for the property. The site is 2 miles from the Gulf of Mexico near the Pasco-Pinellas county line and is one of few large tracts of vacant waterfront left in Pinellas. No homes can be built on the site, according to Stauffer.
"We are interested in finding some long-term beneficial use for the site," Shay said. "We want it to be a good-looking piece of property. But right now, we have one purpose, and safety is the No. 1 driving force."
Tarpon Springs Commissioner Chris Alahouzos attended Thursday's session .
"I wanted to make sure that the city will be able to check the wells," Alahouzos said. "I just wanted to ensure Tarpon's quality of water."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4174.