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Chemical cleanup to begin

The EPA invites public comment on the first stage of cleaning up the former Southern Solvents property.

Efforts will soon be under way to clean the site around a former dry cleaning supply business where chemical leaks contaminated water under 3.6 acres between Gunn Highway and W Linebaugh.

The long-term environmental danger of contamination at the former Southern Solvents property at 4109 W Linebaugh Ave. led the federal Environmental Protection Agency to designate it as northwest Hillsborough County's first Superfund site.

The EPA has proposed a plan for cleaning up the site and has invited the public to comment on the plan by calling (800) 435-9234 by Sept. 1.

"We are addressing now the soil and shallow aquifer contamination," said Jim McGuire, EPA section chief for South Florida. "We will follow this action by addressing the deep aquifer, which is where people get their drinking water from."

The proposed plan involves excavating up to 4 feet of soil above the water table around the building and treating the remaining soil with chemical oxidation, which will reduce the perchlorethylene, or PCE, and trichloroethylene, or TCE, to acceptable levels.

Officials hope to bring soil concentration of PCE and TCE down to 50 parts per billion and 30 parts per billion, respectively. Tests have shown maximum concentrations of PCE at 50 million parts per billion and TCE at 200 parts per billion. McGuire said both of these chemicals are carcinogens.

McGuire said the first stage of the cleanup will cost $4.6-million. No one is drinking that portion of the groundwater that is contaminated, he said.

During the 1970 and '80s, Southern Solvents supplied chemicals, particularly PCE and TCE, to dry cleaners in the Carrollwood area. PCE was stored in tanks on concrete slabs and at the northern portion of the property. Spills and releases from the tanks contaminated the soil and groundwater.

EPA officials said it has been difficult to determine the extent of the contamination because the shallow aquifer and deep aquifer flow in opposite directions. The investigation will continue while the shallow aquifer is being cleaned.

Business owners in the area have known about the pollution since 1989, when PCE and TCE were first detected in the groundwater beneath the Southern Solvents property.

Scientists were not looking for PCE and TCE when they found the pollutants. The discovery came as state environmental officials did an underwater soil test at an adjacent property, an Amoco gas station, also now closed.

Businesses were told to stop using their wellwater. The EPA had to connect some well users to municipal water lines and install a special filter on at least one well.

If you have a story about Carrollwood, call Tim Grant at 226-3471.