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Pollution cleanup at former Hernando public works site awaits commission vote

BROOKSVILLE — The state-sanctioned job of cleaning up the contaminated old public works site in south Brooksville is about to begin — decades after the original pollution was discovered.

The County Commission on Tuesday will be asked to approve the next step for its engineering consultant, Cardno TBE, and that step is to begin to implement the state-approved Remedial Action Plan for the site.

The job will cost $282,346 and includes testing and writing the technical specifications that will begin the process of cleaning and capping the site.

The water and soil there were fouled by contaminants, including petroleum products and arsenic, which leaked into the site at 201 W Dr. M. L. King Jr. Blvd. when the county ran its public works and fleet maintenance operations there years ago.

The county has previously tested the site and removed and replaced dirt, but that was before the action plan was approved in 2010. Putting that plan into place was delayed by the need for a public meeting with residents of the largely African-American neighborhood.

Residents expressed concern that the plan didn't go far enough and argued that the poisons on the site had seeped into their entire neighborhood, sickening and causing the deaths of some residents.

After that meeting, several residents of the neighborhood challenged the plan but an administrative law judge rejected their arguments in March.

In May, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection gave its final approval to the remediation plan and the county staff negotiated the contract with Cardno TBE.

If the contract meets muster with the commission, work begins July 17. The job will focus on three specific activities.

The site has three specific spots where shallow pollution sources must be addressed, said Brian Malmberg, interim transportation services director. Dirt has been dug up at one location in the past and replaced with clean fill, so new testing is needed at that spot. The two other places will need to be excavated.

Cardno TBE will write the specifications for another firm to come and handle that excavation, he said. It will also write the specifications for the second phase of the clean up which involves treating deep plumes of contamination with a product which breaks down the dangerous chemicals.

The third part of the job involves capping the site. This will include using the existing concrete on the site to keep people apart from the soil and will also involve making sure there are no areas where stormwater can wash away contaminants.

Throughout the process, the county will be monitoring and testing. The hope is that the simple first steps outlined in their remediation plan will produce positive test results, but the plan also has back-up activities if the first batch of actions don't work, Malmberg said.

The work could be done by July 2015 if all goes according to plans, the tests show that the county has taken care of the problem and the DEP signs off on the completion of the project.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Pollution cleanup at former Hernando public works site awaits commission vote 06/22/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 8:26pm]

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