Underground contamination found near old Hanna Avenue factory site in Tampa

By Richard Danielson, originally posted on November 4, 2016


TAMPA — For more than 50 years, a series of companies made electric cables and other products in a factory on E Hanna Avenue, leaving behind a toxic mix of petroleum, chlorinated solvents, and lead in the soil and groundwater.

Now, officials suspect trace levels of that contamination have turned up in a monitoring well near the property at 2515 E Hanna Ave.

The latest owner of the site — the city of Tampa — will factor what it has learned into its ongoing cleanup plans for the property, which is about two blocks east of N 22nd Street and across Hanna from Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church and the Grande Oaks Apartments.

Contamination has been found under the property and downstream at a test well about 490 feet west of the old factory. Tampa officials said they checked and all residents on both sides of the street have public water, so there’s no fear of drinking water contamination.

“Our next step is to find out the level of contamination that is there,” said Mark Wilfalk, the city’s director of solid waste and environmental program management. “We’re pretty sure it’s not going to impact the quality of life of any of the folks who are there.”

Wilfalk said the contamination appears to be chlorinated solvents from past industrial operations on the property.

City officials learned of lab test results from the well Oct. 24 and announced the finding the following day. After a massive sinkhole opened in August at a Mosaic phosphate processing plant in Polk County, state officials began requiring companies and local governments to report incidents of pollution to the public via news media within 24 hours.

“We wanted to make sure first and foremost that we were being compliant” with the new state rule “to report whatever we discovered when it was discovered,” Wilfalk said. Nearby property owners were sent written notice of the discovery.

The off-site monitoring well where the compounds were found is about 50 feet to 55 feet deep, said Dan Fahey, an environmental engineer who supervises the city’s environmental coordination division. The compounds pulled from the offsite well were at very low levels, below drinking water standards and groundwater cleanup target levels.

But levels of contamination are higher on the property.

“That’s where we’ll be focusing our further assessment and remediation,” Fahey said.

Alternatives for the cleanup include pumping contaminated water out of the ground or injecting bio-remediation materials into it to counter the pollution.

For almost 40 years, General Cable Corp. made telephone and electrical cables at the plant. It closed in 1992, but the site was later used by several other companies, including Electric Machinery Enterprises. The building has been vacant since a bankruptcy sale in 2008.

The city of Tampa bought the 11-acre property for $1 million in 2014 and plans to turn it into a city office, records storage and maintenance facility. The cost of the cleanup has been estimated at up to about $600,000.

Going into the job, city officials had indications the building might have asbestos, lead dust in the rafters and a 500-gallon oil tank on the southern side of the property. That is the area where drums of ethylene glycol and sodium hydroxide waste were reportedly found leaking in the early 1990s.

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