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Neighbors of the Stauffer Chemical Superfund site worry the EPA's cleanup won't be enough

TARPON SPRINGS — Heather Malinowski doesn't think the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to clean up the Stauffer Chemical Superfund site is going to work.

Neither does Carlene Hobbs Batman or Jessie Burke.

"It's only guaranteed for 30 some odd years," said Burke, who is adamant that hazardous materials caused the death of her husband, a Stauffer employee for seven years. "The cleanups are supposed to be permanent and this is not."

The Tarpon Springs women are a few of the residents who have fought for the cleanup of the 130-acre site along the Anclote River after Stauffer Chemical's phosphorus-processing plant left 30 toxic substances in the water and soil, including arsenic, lead and radium-226.

The plant closed in 1981 and the EPA put the area on its Superfund list in 1994. Now 15 years later, the EPA is set to begin the cleanup, which is expected to cost upwards of $10 million and be paid for by Stauffer.

The project will go out for bid next month and a contractor will be selected in August. Work is to begin in September.

The plan calls for a 10- to 20-foot-deep wall to be built around the 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 181/2-acre area of the northern parcel.

It will take up to two years to complete the project.

Residents wanted the contaminated soil excavated and shipped away, but that method was cost prohibitive.

Randy Bryant, remedial project manager for EPA, said 30 years is the standard time used for cost analysis and is not the life expectancy of the work.

"The remedy components are going to far outlast my lifetime," Bryant, 46, said. "It is a containment remedy. The caps will be protective of people and will protect groundwater by making it harder for it to move to other areas."

Bryant, who is based in Atlanta, said that "after all these decades" there is no evidence of containments ever leaving the site.

In 2006, the site burst into flames while the EPA was using an auger to inject various types of Portland cement into the soil during a test.

"We encountered a larger volume of phosphorus," Bryant said. "It triggered the reaction, which we don't want to do again."

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.

Today, signs are posted on a fence surrounding the property that say "Hazardous waste site, No Trespassing."

About 230 people worked at the plant for at least five years. In 2005, the EPA expanded its eligibility requirements for screenings of employees who worked at Stauffer for at least two years. Workers were exposed to asbestos, lead, sulfur dioxide and other contaminants that could cause an increased risk of cancer.

Burke's husband worked at Stauffer from 1960 to 1967. He died of lung cancer. She blames Stauffer.

"He knew it was unhealthy and they were not following the safety rules and that's why he quit," Burke said. "The pay was good, but it wasn't worth it."

The Stauffer site is 2 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the few large tracts of vacant waterfront left in Pinellas.

In 2005, county officials discussed putting a storage building for up to 450 boats, 100 wet slips, a public boat launch ramp and parking for as many as 100 boat trailers on the site.

A preliminary sketch of the proposed development included a restaurant, six soccer fields and a fishing pier.

But Paul Cozzie, the county's Cultural Education and Leisure director, said there has been no communication with Stauffer officials for about a year and half. He also said there was some interest in the site from a private company.

"With everything that has happened with the economy and the difficulty in finding financing, everything has fallen by the wayside," Cozzie said.

Stauffer Chemical officials did not return calls for this article, but have said previously that no homes will ever be built on the site.

Malinowski is still uneasy about the method of cleanup.

"Will (the contaminant) be contained safely so it will not leak into the neighborhood?" she asked. "And, of course, that question can never be answered because we know when you leave toxic material in place, they don't have an procedure proven to last forever. But neighborhoods last forever."

Batman, 60, agrees.

"What happens after 30 years?" she asked. "It's been seeping into the environment all these years. I just don't get it. I grew up with that stinky plant."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at or (727) 445-4174.

Fast facts

More information

To learn more about the Stauffer Chemical Superfund Site, visit or call:

Tarpon Springs Public Library

138 East Lemon St., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689

Phone: (727) 943-4922

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

U.S. EPA Region 4 Library

Sam Nunn Federal Building, Ninth Floor Reception Area , 61 Forsyth St. SW, Atlanta, GA 30303

Phone: (404) 562-8190

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Neighbors of the Stauffer Chemical Superfund site worry the EPA's cleanup won't be enough 06/26/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 26, 2009 8:24pm]
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