Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida DEP okays Progress Energy cleanup plan for Walsingham Park

LARGO — Old cleaning solvents are polluting the groundwater under Progress Energy's operations center next to Walsingham Park near Largo, and over the years the polluted groundwater has spread beneath the Pinellas County park, too.

Now, 14 years after the pollution was discovered, the utility has gotten a green light from the state Department of Environmental Protection for a plan to clean up the mess before it spreads to the Walsingham Reservoir.

The plan calls for pumping in a strain of bacteria specifically chosen because they will gobble up the pollution, leaving behind harmless byproducts like carbon dioxide, Progress Energy spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said Friday. The work is scheduled to begin next month, she said.

Because the pollution is all underground, "there has been no human contact with the solvents," Grant said. About 70 people work at the building at 12600 Walsingham Road.

The cleanup has been a long time coming. Workers discovered the pollution in 1997 while testing around the utility's property for any signs of leaking from underground gasoline tanks. Instead of chemicals related to gasoline, they found a plume of chemicals from an old type of cleaning solvents no longer in use.

The solvents contained chlorinated hydrocarbons — organic compounds of hydrogen and carbon to which chlorine has been added. They can cause liver and kidney damage, and have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

The groundwater flows to the southeast, so the pollution oozed underground beyond the utility's property line to contaminate the area under the county park, too. It has not reached the reservoir.

Progress Energy's cleanup plan calls for sinking monitoring wells in the park and on Progress Energy's land, then pumping out the contaminated groundwater for treatment and injecting bacteria in its place to consume what's left.

As to why 14 years passed between the discovery of the Walsingham pollution and the start of a cleanup, "The project has required multiple stages of assessments," Grant said in an e-mail.

The long delay echoes a similar situation that occurred with the Raytheon factory near Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.

Workers building a leg of the Pinellas Trail next to the Raytheon plant found groundwater pollution in 1991. Despite cleanup efforts then, Raytheon and DEP officials learned in 1999 that the plume had spread beyond Raytheon's property to the surrounding Azalea neighborhood. But no one alerted the neighbors to the situation until 2008.

DEP officials approved Raytheon's plan for cleaning up the pollution earlier this year.

Craig Pittman can be reached at

Florida DEP okays Progress Energy cleanup plan for Walsingham Park 09/02/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2011 10:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  2. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo


    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  3. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  4. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win


    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  5. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.