Residents of a St. Petersburg, Florida neighborhood are concerned about the safety of their families, and for good reason. A toxic plume caused by 1,4-dioxane, TCE and vinyl chloride, all considered hazardous to humans, has migrated to the groundwater beneath their homes and parks. It was discovered 17 years ago by workers building the Pinellas Trail, a linear park and recreational trail which makes use of unused railroad easements and other rights-of-way. This plume was left untreated and has been migrating toward the Boca Ciega Bay and its seagrass, oyster beds, and marine life. Of imminent concern is the effect on the neighborhood that sits above its current location.
The plume currently lurks below hundreds of homes, parks, and playgrounds. Many of the homes use private wells to water their lawns. While a handful of the relatively shallow private wells were tested and found not contaminated, the test wells have shown the presence of the plume. Residents are frustrated at the lack of response by their government. Despite the issuance of 204 private well licenses within a half-mile of the Raytheon plant, no action has been taken by the DEP. Instead, it refers to the company’s obligation to test every private well within a quarter mile of the plume. The fact that DEP’s records only show the company testing one private well in the last 16 years does not comfort the residents.
It should be noted that Raytheon inherited the problem from the former owner of the plant site. Though the company produced newsletters in 1999 detailing the contamination, there is no evidence of additional notifications since environmental technicians identified the migration three years ago. The company claims the plume isn’t a threat to the neighborhood and expects to finish its assessment and start the initial cleanup sometime next year. In the meanwhile, two class-action lawsuits have been filed against Raytheon Corp. on behalf of residents.
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