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Brooksville council gives go-ahead to contact owners of suspected polluted properties

BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council has authorized the city's Brownfields Task Force to contact the owners of 19 properties suspected of containing pollutants for permission to further investigate the sites.

The properties were pared from an initial list of about 90 sites by a citizens task force appointed eight months ago. The work is being done with a $400,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that seeks to identify sites that are historically linked to contaminants such as petroleum, cleaning chemicals and solvents, pesticides and other industrial wastes. The council's approval Monday night paves the way for project staffers to contact property owners to explain the benefits of participating in the Brownfields assessments, which could lead to additional state and federal cleanup money for mitigation.

Bill Geiger, who heads the city's Brownfields program, said the properties, many of which date back to an era when little attention was paid to the dumping of toxic substances, were chosen based primarily on their redevelopment and rehabilitation potential. But while the grant pays the entire cost of work such as core sampling and soil and groundwater analysis, participation by land owners is strictly voluntary.

"We can't force them to participate if they don't want to, but the hope is that they will see the benefit to having it done," Geiger said.

The task force, made up of residents from throughout the city has been meeting since July to put together a list of suspect sites, which include abandoned gas stations, citrus processing plants, railroad storage tanks, auto repair shops — even a long-closed former mortuary — where chemicals may have leeched into the soil or are still languishing inside abandoned storage tanks.

Geiger said the next step is to research ownership documents and attempt to contact owners for permission to do further investigation. Particular attention will be paid to properties where potential contaminants could pose problems to the well sites around the city, he said. Additional sites could be added, he said, if the task force chooses to do so.

The assessment phase of the Brownfields program is due to be concluded by September 2015.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

Brooksville council gives go-ahead to contact owners of suspected polluted properties 03/18/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 5:12pm]

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