ST. PETERSBURG — Raytheon plans to start cleaning up pollution at its St. Petersburg property within 90 days, a first step toward remedying all of the underground contamination in the Azalea neighborhood, the company announced Tuesday.
Raytheon also reported that groundwater samples taken around Azalea Elementary School have found that none of the pollution related to the site has cropped up anywhere on school grounds.
The testing "has not revealed any threat to the health, safety or well-being of our students and community," interim superintendent Julie Janssen told the School Board on Tuesday.
Since the 1991 discovery of toxic contamination at the plant at 1501 72nd St. N, the plume has slowly spread beneath the Azalea neighborhood, reaching at least the edge of Azalea Elementary. The company has until Aug. 31 to submit a thorough assessment of the extent of contamination, and then a complete cleanup plan within 90 days.
However, as an interim step, the company plans to start cleaning up its own property using four "pump-and-treat" wells.
"We anticipate at least 90 days for the pump-and-treat system to become operational," Raytheon spokesman Jon Kasle said Tuesday.
The company would sink wells into the contaminated groundwater and pump it into holding tanks to be cleaned. Ultimately it would be shipped to a sewer plant.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has used pump-and-treat at more than 500 Superfund sites, it tends to be a slow, painstaking process. The typical pump-and-treat operation takes at least five years, although many take longer.
Times staff writer Thomas C. Tobin contributed to this story.