Orlando Cleanup Set To Begin p. 34

By: MARK FITZGERALD CLEANUP OF THE downtown Orlando, Fla., ground water contam-ination attributed to the Orlando Sentinel will begin within a few weeks.
The newspaper and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection earlier this year reached agreement on how to proceed with the cleanup of some 67 million gallons of ground water.
Under this agreement, the Sentinel will clean up the largest of three "plumes" of contaminated water, with the state and city splitting responsibility for the other two plumes, said newspaper spokesman Jim DeSimone.
The Sentinel will pay the largest share for the cleanup, said DeSimone, who declined to estimate the cost. He said, however, that it would not be a "material" amount.
Ironically, it was the Sentinel's own journalists who broke the story that downtown Orlando's ground water was contaminated by trichloro-
ethylene, or TCE. At some sites, inspectors for Florida's DEP found concentrations of TCE that were as much as 24,000 times the permissible levels for drinking water.
Though its use now is severely restricted, TCE is a solvent that was once used by newspapers and other manufacturers as a metal degreaser.
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency now classifies TCE as a "probable" carcinogen for humans. Ingestion can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, liver damage or unconsciousness.
According to a 1994 Florida DEP report, the Sentinel used TCE between 1978 and 1981.
But the newspaper was not the only downtown business using TCE. Geraghty & Miller Inc., Reston, Va.-based environmental consultants hired by the newspaper, identified some 65 businesses ? ranging from a trophy manufacturer to a steam laundry ? that used TCE or a similar solvent commonly known as PCE.
Based on that report, the Sentinel had argued that much of the ground water contamination under its own property had migrated from other pollution sources.
In the five years since its discovery, the contamination has been the subject of extensive testing ? as well as regulatory, legal and political wrangling among the state, city, newspaper and other downtown businesses.
Various proposals for financing of the cleanup ? including creation of a special taxing district ? were floated, but foundered because it was so hard to identify who was responsible for the pollution.
For instance, extensive testing of the so-called Plume B failed to establish clearly where the contamination had come from. This March, the Florida DEP officially concluded it could not identify the polluter or polluters.
The state itself agreed to clean up Plume B and the city of Orlando agreed to finance cleanup of Plume C, which Florida environmental officials believe was polluted by PCE from a now-defunct steam laundry.
The Sentinel will bear the cost of cleaning up Plume A under the agreement.


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