The internet is a blessing and a curse. I can waste hours sitting on social media, but sometimes, I stumble upon things that really get my blood boiling. This morning, I found there are three EPA Superfund sites near my parent’s home in Martin County, Florida and one where I live now, in Tallahassee, Florida.
So, what’s a Superfund Site?
Superfund sites were created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “an environmental program established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites”.
In 1980, the EPA committed to cleaning up some of the most dangerous, uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Make no mistake – this is a great thing. These can be sites of former metal, chemical and wood processing plants. They can be landfills, military bases and a variety of other places. Some are no longer in use, others are in-use after clean-up occurred. More on the Superfund process can be found here.
Near Martin County, there are three sites that were identified as Superfund sites. Two of these are inside Martin County and the third is in Vero Beach, inside Indian River County. These include Solitron Microwave in Stuart, Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach and Florida Steel in Indiantown.
Why is this important?
The EPA identified these sites because they posed a risk. The work done at these sites affected groundwater, soil and sediments. While all of these sites are classified as under control for Human Exposure – important to know what surrounds you, right!? Two sites are classified as under control for Groundwater Migration. Solitron Microwave in Stuart, which is near a middle school, is not.
Before this area was remedied, 187 private homes north and east of this area got their water from private wells. All private wells use groundwater and the 20 acre Solitron property contaminated groundwater with solvents.
The EPA decided to fix the problem – sorta – authorizing “some” soil cleanup for groundwater protection. “As a result, soil cleanup goals for the Site are much lower than necessary to protect human health from direct contact with the soil.”
Today, Solitron is in re-use as an industrial park with retail, office and warehouse space. The residential areas nearby are on the public water system and contaminated groundwater flows in the opposite direction of Port Salerno Middle School.
Chemicals at Solitron Site
Solitron Microwave was the site of a metals plating and manufacturing business from 1968-1987. Materials made here were used for military, aerospace and microwave industries. The company used solvents, substances used to dissolve other substances. Solitron then placed the solvents in barrels and shipped them off-site. Site inspections revealed leaking pipes and drum pads that were potential sources of contamination for surrounding soil and groundwater.
In 2002, contaminated soil was excavated. In 2003, Martin County extended water lines for nearby residents to receive public water. In 2004, the EPA reported all construction activities had halted. EPA stopped sampling of groundwater in July 2014, with responsibility falling on FDEP.
Site investigations found contamination in soil and groundwater – what does that mean? It means contaminants like tetrachloroethylene (PCE or PERC), trichloroethylene, 1,2 dichloroethene and vinyl chloride were released into the ground at this site.
According to the EPA, tetrachloroethylene can affect your health.
“Some people who drink water containing tetrachloroethylene well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could have problems with their liver and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.”
Trichloroethylene, used in the vapor degreasing of metal parts, is known to the EPA to cause short and long term affects.
Acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure to trichloroethylene can affect the human central nervous system (CNS), with symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, confusion, euphoria, facial numbness, and weakness. Liver, kidney, immunological, endocrine, and developmental effects have also been reported in humans
Vinyl Chloride has been classified by the EPA as a Group A, human carcinogen.
Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in air has resulted in central nervous system effects (CNS), such as dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches in humans. Chronic (long-term) exposure to vinyl chloride through inhalation and oral exposure in humans has resulted in liver damage. Cancer is a major concern from exposure to vinyl chloride via inhalation, as vinyl chloride exposure has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer in humans.
All in all – the site has improved vastly in the last two decades. Groundwater is improved, but soil is still contaminated with dangerous chemicals. This marks the end of Kate’s chemical rant. ‘Til next time.
PS – if you wanna see a real disaster of a Superfund site, check out Tyndall Air Force Base. Sad that our military is exposed to that.