Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Tests will determine if business site at Hernando airport is contaminated

BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport has notified state environmental regulators that between 80 and 400 gallons of airplane fuel may have been spilled at an airport business months ago.

Testing began Thursday to determine the extent of any contamination at the site of the now-defunct Brooksville Air Center.

Airport manager Don Silvernell reported to the Hernando County Aviation Authority on Thursday afternoon that initial tests appeared to be clean and that more definitive results from soil borings should be available next week.

The state also wants to see those.

"We are awaiting the results of the soil samples to determine if there is contamination and what the next step will be," said Mara Burger, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Airport officials learned of the possible spill Tuesday when Hernando resident Paul Douglas spoke about it during the County Commission meeting. Silvernell told commissioners it was the first he had heard of it.

Silvernell and county business development manager Michael McHugh met with Douglas at the airport later that day to have Douglas show them where the fuel may have leaked from a derelict jet and a fueling station.

A spill at the site would be especially troubling because the Aviation Authority is poised on April 22 to close a $1.25 million deal to buy the facility, which formerly housed a fixed-base operator. Airport officials intend to buy the 4,000-square-foot office building and 21,000-square foot hangar and market it to an aviation-related business. The county already owns the 11-acre site.

Earlier this month, the airport received an appraisal of $1.4 million on the property, allowing the sale to move forward. But Robert Rey, the former manager of the business who has been embroiled in several disputes with the county, had his own appraisal done. That appraisal valued the site between $790,000 and $940,000, lower at least in part because of the contamination, Douglas told the Times.

During Thursday's Aviation Authority meeting, Chairman Gary Schraut said Rey's appraiser refuses to give the county his assessment. Schraut said the appraiser did not even do an environmental assessment.

Unless something drastic changes, he said, the county will move forward with the purchase.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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