Florida cleanup of toxic solvent under way

Sept. 2, 2011 at 11:48 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Florida authorities say they are pinning their hopes on subterranean bacteria to battle cancer-causing trichloroethene dumped in Orlando almost 50 years ago.

Thousands of gallons of molasses are being pumped into the ground north of the city's downtown to serve as a kind of food for bacteria that is then expected to feast on the toxic TCE solvent dumped in the 1960s by a long-defunct aerospace company, the Orlando Sentinel reported Friday.

Orlando agreed to pay for cleaning the site rather than have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fund the work, which would have resulted in the city being added the agency's infamous list of Superfund projects, the newspaper said.

Molasses has been pumped into the ground in an area of more than 40 acres.

"It's feed-grade molasses, not for human consumption but they feed cattle with it," said Chad Hanna of ARCADIS U.S. Inc., which is performing the nearly $13 million cleanup for the city. "We've gotten five tankfuls into the ground already."

The is concern the heavier-than-water chemical could penetrate layers of clay and enter the Floridan Aquifer, source of much of Central Florida's drinking water.

EPA project manager Bill Denman in Atlanta said it's difficult to estimate how long the cleanup will last.

"As I've said, it's easy to contaminate an aquifer but very difficult to clean one up," he said. "I'm really hesitant to predict how many years it will take but it will definitely be many years."

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