Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Raytheon will widen its search for pollution

ST. PETERSBURG — Raytheon will expand the area it is testing for cancer-causing chemicals and begin cleaning the most-contaminated groundwater around its factory as the first step in fixing pollution identified 17 years ago, a company official announced at a community meeting Wednesday evening.

The meeting came the same day news broke about a creek near the Raytheon property that showed signs of the same toxic contamination spreading underground through the Azalea neighborhood.

The creek contamination marks the first time any surface water pollution related to Raytheon has been detected.

The creek, which lies west of Azalea and drains into Boca Ciega Bay, has no known connection with the underground aquifer where the other contamination has been found, state Department of Environmental Protection District Director Deborah Getzoff said in an interview Wednesday. So the DEP is asking Raytheon to figure out where the contamination originated.

Meanwhile, state toxicologists and health officials insist the plume has never been a risk to human health. They say the odds the chemicals would cause cancer are less than one in a million.

Steve Roberts, a University of Florida professor under contract with the environmental protection department, said even children who played in or accidentally drank water from contaminated irrigation wells would not face a significant health risk.

Still, the several hundred residents from in and around the Azalea neighborhood were not placated. Dozens used the question-and-answer session to pose increasingly angry and pointed questions about their health, property values and why they weren't notified more quickly.

"As a father of three young boys, I have a pressing concern," said Bob Brumm, who lives on Second Avenue N. "How do you address that so we can use our homes as they were meant to be used, as a place of enjoyment?"

Contamination, first found in 1991, is believed to have come from a waste sludge pit or a leaky petroleum storage tank used by the site's previous owner, E-Systems. By 1999, the chemicals were found to have tainted groundwater under Azalea Park, the Stone's Throw condominiums and surrounding residences.

The public was not notified until last year, when the chemical plume showed signs of spreading further.

To determine definitively the extent of the pollution, groundwater under Azalea Elementary School and areas surrounding the existing chemical plume will be tested in the next few weeks.

The plan is a response to an environmental protection department requirement that Raytheon provide more information than was delivered in a May 30 site-assessment report. The DEP was not satisfied with Raytheon's findings on how much water was contaminated.

Updated results are due Aug. 31, and Raytheon must then submit a full cleanup program within 90 days.

So far, 13 irrigation wells have been found to have contamination that exceeds safe levels for drinking water. But even allowing for long-term, heavy exposure to the tainted water, Department of Health officials said the health risk is not great enough to cause concern. No medical tests are available to show how an individual has been affected, and samples of fruits and vegetables cultivated with tainted water have not yet been analyzed.

Despite assurances that the risks are extremely slight, residents are frustrated by the lack of clear answers.

"I feel like I might be at risk, but I'm not sure," said James Schattman, whose well was one of the 13 found to have significant contamination. "That's no comfort."

Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report. Andrew Dunn can be reached at or (727) 893-8150.

Raytheon will widen its search for pollution 07/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 11, 2008 8:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. World's plastic waste could bury Manhattan 2 miles deep


    WASHINGTON — Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than 2 miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

    Plastic trash is compacted into bales ready for further processing at the waste processing dump on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus.
  2. Sen. John McCain's type of cancer did not slow Tampa woman


    TAMPA —When 35-year-old Beth Caldwell heard about Sen. John McCain's brain tumor this week, she hoped he would stay positive.

    That's what helped her, she said.

    Beth Caldwell, 35, and her sons Gavin, 10, and Triston, 7. Caldwell had surgery to remove an aggressive brain tumor three years ago. [Photo Courtesy of Beth Caldwell]
  3. A week later, the lengthy, costly rebuilding plan for the Pasco sinkhole begins

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — A week after a massive sinkhole opened in Pasco County, county officials have begun planning the long-term cleanup, which could take months and millions of dollars.

    A sinkhole in Land O'Lakes, Fla., is seen Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The sinkhole ?‘ already one of the largest in Pasco County in decades ?‘ measures about 235 feet in width and 50 feet in depth, with the potential to expand further.
  4. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection


    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  5. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix


    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]