PLANT CITY – Widespread testing of wells for pollution won’t be expanded beyond a quarter-mile radius of Coronet Industries, officials said Monday.
With few exceptions, no more wells will be tested in the ongoing study of the health of residents near the phosphate processing plant, said Hillsborough County Health Department Director Doug Holt.
Contaminated wells detected so far are clustered near the plant, so there seems to be no reason to expand the testing zone, he said. In areas farther away, “you start seeing all wells … meet drinking water standards,” he said.
Residents in 41 homes with contaminated wells drink bottled water. Most of those houses are around Gentry and Cason roads and Clemons Road, Holt said. Nearly 150 wells have been tested in the quarter-mile radius.
The decision was made Monday after a meeting of officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission and the state Department of Health.
DEP denied the Tribune’s request to attend the meeting.
Holt anticipates testing only a handful of other wells, such as those missed in earlier sampling.
The decision disappointed C.B. Dean, who lives on Wiggins Road and worries about the safety of his water.
“Mine hasn’t been tested, but I wish they had,” he said.
Officials have looked at the Coronet area since residents complained of rampant illness near the plant.
Health and environmental officials have not positively linked pollution from the nearly 100-year-old plant to any illness, and they haven’t confirmed that rates of illness are higher near the factory.
DEP says pollution from Coronet is responsible for the contamination of seven wells on Gentry and Cason roads, spokeswoman Merritt Mitchell said. The department has not linked other polluted wells to the plant, although studies continue, she said.
Coronet spokesman Ron Bartlett said the company doesn’t believe there is any scientific evidence linking Coronet to any significant environmental problem.
Bartlett said Coronet is poised to provide any remedies necessary if evidence is uncovered linking the factory to contaminated wells.
The meeting Monday was held so officials could map their next steps in their study of Coronet and surrounding areas. Significant developments from the meeting as reported by the attending agencies include:
Results from urine tests of residents should be returned next year, Holt said. The tests will help determine if well pollutants are in the bodies of residents.
A study of cancer rates in the Coronet area also is expected early next year. In elevated levels, many of the pollutants found in wells, such as radiation, can cause cancer.
The county EPC has taken water and soil samples from two old landfills at Park Road and Alabama Street, along with soil samples from ditches in the Lincoln Park area.
Officials are looking at the old landfills as other potential sources of pollution, and ditches are being sampled to see if pollutants have flowed through them, said Rick Garrity, executive director of the EPC.
Results from the samples should be ready early next year. Lincoln Park has been on city water for a years, and no wells are available to sample, Holt said. He didn’t rule out drilling a well.
Complaints from Lincoln Park seem to revolve around surface water, such as water in ditches, he said.
Several state and federal health reports on the Coronet area should be released in the spring and summer.
Air testing has not shown any more air pollution in the Coronet area than other parts of Hillsborough County, Garrity said. A hydrogen-fluoride monitor on loan from the federal government should be operational this week, he said.
These contaminants were found to exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety goals.
Found in paints, dyes, metals, drugs, soaps and semiconductors.
Symptoms of exposure: Abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea; muscular cramps or pain; weakness and flushing of skin, skin rash; numbness, burning, tingling sensation, or pain in the hands and feet.
Used in plating and coating operations for machinery, nickel-cadmium and solar batteries, and in pigments.
Symptoms of exposure: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, salivation, sensory disturbances, liver injury, convulsions, shock and renal failure.
Found in the atmosphere as a byproduct of chemical manufacturing and combustion of natural gas, oil and coal.
Symptoms of exposure: Skin irritation or ulceration; dermatitis; damage to liver, kidney circulatory and nerve tissues.
Used to produce aluminum, steel, phosphate fertilizers and phosphoric acid.
Symptoms of exposure: Joint pain and stiffness, calcified ligaments, bone damage, deformed spine and joints, muscular wasting, compression of spinal cord.
Sometimes found in household plumbing materials or in water service lines.
Symptoms of exposure: Delays physical and mental development; causes deficits in attention span, hearing and learning abilities of children; can increase blood pressure in adults; may cause stroke, kidney disease and cancer.
GROSS ALPHA RADIATION
Energy released when natural radioactive elements such as uranium decay.
Symptoms of exposure: Can be harmful if an individual eats or drinks something containing alpha radiation or breathes it. In the long term, heightens risk of bone cancer, and uranium increases the risk of kidney damage.
Tribune research by Jody Habayeb and Frances Bekafigo; Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Fluoride Action Network