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Clearwater's land in Hillsborough contaminated with lead, arsenic, DEP study shows

KEYSTONE — Testing by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection confirmed land Clearwater owns along Patterson Road bordering Silver Dollar Shooters Club is contaminated with lead, arsenic and antimony.

Equity Lifestyle Properties, a multi-billion dollar mobile home community developer and owner of the shooting club, was the winning bidder April 5 to buy Clearwater's 425 acres of pasture for $6.4 million. The city is now finalizing a contract, which the City Council must approve.

Because the bid document included a clause making the buyer responsible for any environmental contamination, Equity Lifestyle will be responsible for handling remediation, according to William Pence, the city's outside environmental attorney.

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DEP spokesperson Shannon Herbon said the state testing was done at the request of several citizens. She said the department is now working with the Shooters Club to assess the extent of contamination and what should be done about it.

Representatives with Equity Lifestyle did not respond to a request for comment.

DEP collected two surface water samples and four soil samples Feb. 20 on Clearwater's property just east of the shooting range. Along with levels of lead, arsenic and antimony found in the soil above standards, the April 8 results showed copper, lead and cadmium in surface water above acceptable standards.

Sam Upchurch, a geologist and former vice president of earth sciences firm Sdii Global in Tampa, said remediation can include excavating and dumping soil in a landfill or injecting fluid in the earth that binds to contaminants so they can be pulled out.

Because there are no production wells near the property, Warren Hogg, water use permitting manager for Tampa Bay Water, said contamination of the underlying Floridan Aquifer is unlikely.

"We're watching and following up with DEP with their investigation," Hogg said. "Now I would say it's likely not a concern to the regional water supply."

Hooshang Boostani, director of waste management for the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, said his agency is not involved in the investigation.

Equity Lifestyle moved to buy Clearwater's property after the city had spent more than a year working to finalize a sale to Hillsborough's Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.

ELAPP acquisition manager Kurt Gremley said the county had concerns about taking on the 20 acres bordering the shooting range because of concerns about contamination from stray bullets.

Equity Lifestyle needed only about 20 acres of Clearwater's property to resolve zoning violations in the adjacent shooting range. Because Clearwater would only sell the 425 acres as one piece, the company bid on the entire property.

Tom Aderhold, director at large for the Keystone Civic Association, said he hopes the contamination gives pause to the city in finalizing the sale to the Equity Lifestyle.

"They could sell the property, but what would the property be used for?" he said. "That would only aid and abet the conditions of the soil right now."

Contact Tracey McManus at tmcmanus@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

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