Escambia Treating Company Superfund Site "Mt. Dioxin" in Pensacola, Florida

Where is Escambia Treating Company (ETC) Superfund Site?

ETC is located at 3910 North Palafox Street, Pensacola, north of Fairfield and also north of the Lurton Street Industrial Park.

When did it operate?

ETC operated from 1943 to 1982, using creosote and pentachlorophenol to treat wood for use as utility poles and foundation pilings. Few environmental precautions were taken: wastes were placed in an unlined landfill, in an unlined containment pond, and in unlabeled drums. The treatment cylinders (pressure cookers used to saturate the wood with pentachlorophenol and other chemicals) would sometimes fly open, releasing hundreds of gallons of the toxic solution; workers were sent to pump out creosote and pentachlorophenol which had pooled in yards north of the plant after heavy rains flooded the waste ponds and to distribute sand over the contaminated areas.

What are the major contaminants?

Escambia Treating Company Superfund Site is nationally known as "Mt. Dioxin" for the huge amount of that very toxic contaminant; it also has dangerous levels of pentachlorophenol, creosote, arsenic, benzo(a)pyrene, dieldrin, napthalene, toluene, xylene, benzene, copper, chromium, and more, as well as asbestos and PCB's.

What health effects can they cause?

These contaminants can cause several different kinds of cancers; genetic damage; birth defects; miscarriage; heart disease; liver damage; kidney damage; lung damage; nerve damage; leukemia and other blood diseases; immune system damage; thyroid damage; hormone imbalances; metabolic diseases; severe skin irritation, burning and itching; gangrene; skin cancers; severe eye irritation; permanent scarring of the cornea; severe respiratory irritation; difficult breathing; coughing; chest pain; anemia; blood thinning, bleeding and bruising. Many nearby residents and former workers have suffered and died from these illnesses.

How can people be exposed to the site's contaminants?

People can be exposed to ETC’s toxic wastes by breathing contaminated dust and fumes or by skin contact with contaminated dust, fumes, soil, and bay or bayou sediments; by drinking or swimming in contaminated water; by eating vegetables grown in contaminated soils; by eating contaminated seafood..

What is the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) doing?

During 1991-93, EPA excavated 255,00 cubic yards (344,250 tons) of poisoned soil, now stockpiled under a plastic cover. This was a temporary measure, not a permanent solution. For the five-year life of the plastic cover, the excavated waste was prevented from leaching into groundwater or being inhaled, but its time was up at the end of 1997. 358 families have been moved away from Mt. Dioxin to protect them from continuing exposure; recently, EPA agreed to relocate 45 more families, and that process is underway. Much of the area surrounding the ETC site is zoned commercial and industrial, but there are many homes, schools, and churches nearby. The site sits above the aquifer which supplies drinking water to the county’s residents and also flows into Bayou Texar and Escambia Bay.

Although CATE and other local interests pushed for a true cleanup to neutralize the toxic wastes, EPA Region IV (Atlanta) managers have decided to follow the precedent they set at the nearby Agrico site, leaving all the surface contaminants in an onsite "containment", essentially a new, underground Mt. Dioxin (which like all landfills, will eventually leak).

What’s in the plume of contaminated groundwater and where is it going?

EPA has found that the ETC plume of contamination contains elevated levels of dioxin, pentachlorophenol (PCP),naphthalene, dioxin and a number of other organic contaminants. The dioxin findings are particularly troubling because EPA is ignoring dioxin in its Mt. Dioxin groundwater cleanup planning.

The plume usually flows ESE toward upper Bayou Texar. In general, it moves in the same directions as the Agrico plume, but it may not have proceeded as far as that plume. In some areas, groundwater contamination from the two sources is mixed together. Because Agrico contamination has been found due south as well as southeast, the ETC plume would also travel south sometimes. At other times, especially during droughts, the plume may move in other directions, as well.

Many important questions about the ETC plume remain unanswered. It reaches as far as east as the western shore of Bayou Texar, but EPA has not determined where is goes beyond that. ETC contaminants, including dioxin, have been found on the eastern side of the bayou.

Most of all, it is urgent that EPA warn each resident living over the ETC plume against the use of private well water for any human contact, including swimming pools, yard and garden irrigation, car washing, etc..

 



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