Coronet Industries Inc. executives vow they will do the “right thing” and clean up pollution problems as they close the animal food supplement plant, which some neighbors believe is making them sick.

We hope they mean it. Much is at stake. State Department of Environmental Protection officials say it could cost as much as $45 million to clean and close the Plant City facility – a figure the company disputes.

Beyond this, 90 employees will lose their jobs. Coronet leaders promise to give workers severance packages that include interim health care and some job training.

It is somewhat reassuring that DEP regulators believe state and federal laws give them the muscle to force the company to clean up any contamination they find. But litigation with a defunct operation owned by a Japanese corporation is hardly a happy prospect.

This makes it all the more important that Coronet’s local leaders keep their pledge. They have already hired consultants to help plan the task, an encouraging sign. Performing a thorough cleanup would somewhat redeem the reputation of a company that has operated for nearly 100 years, but which has proved to be a controversial, if not dangerous, presence.

An investigation by The Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV, News Channel 8, found people in the working-class neighborhoods near the Coronet plant have suffered an unusual number of health problems, including cancers. Government scientists are investigating whether there is a connection between the plant’s pollution and the neighbors’ illnesses.

The Tribune-Channel 8 investigation also found dozens of environmental violations at the plant, including leaky storage tanks, air emissions problems and hydrofluoric acid spills that leaked arsenic and other toxins into English Creek.

Executives, who deny polluting neighborhood drinking-water wells, blame Coronet’s scheduled March 31 closing on increasing production costs and reduced demand, not the controversy. But the abrupt closing of the aging plant caught almost everyone by surprise.

Tampa Bay residents have seen what can happen when a company closes shop. When phosphate company Mulberry Corp. declared bankruptcy and abandoned its facilities, including the Piney Point plant on Tampa Bay, DEP had to step in. The state has since waged a costly battle to prevent acidic water in the plant’s gypsum mounds from overflowing into Tampa Bay. Taxpayers will wind up paying about $160 million to clean up the abandoned site.

Because of Piney Point, lawmakers adopted some mild reforms, but none would apply to Coronet because it is a different type of plant.

Still, if Coronet officials are as good as their word, there should be no repeat of the Piney Point disaster. If not, then we hope that DEP’s legal arsenal is as powerful as regulators believe.