A poor showing Cleanup plan for Tallevast flawed

Bradenton.com | 08/09/2007 | A poor showing

A poor showing
Cleanup plan for Tallevast flawed

The year is 2173. By now the U.S. colony on Mars has become largely self-sufficient. Citizens of the Mesopotamian Union are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the peace treaty that united Iran, Iraq, Palestine and Israel into a Middle Eastern trading power rivaling the European Union. On Capitol Hill, Congress remains gridlocked as Republicans filibuster a Democratic bill that would provide universal health care for all Americans. Out on the West Coast, the great-great-grandchildren of the celebrated 21st century philanthropist Paris Hilton are planning a retrospective of her wild early years at the Hollywood Museum.

And in Tallevast, Fla., Lockheed Martin finally reaches the groundwater cleanup target level set in its Remedial Action Plan for underground contaminants back in 2007.

One-hundred-sixty-six years. That’s the time frame set for eliminating one class of poisons leached into the soil around the former American Beryllium Co. plant in Tallevast. A table in Section 5.7.4, Page 5-21, of Lockheed’s two-volume, 4½-inch-thick remedial plan projects full removal of trichlorethylene will be achieved in 166 years. Encouragingly, the table projects reaching 90 percent removal in only 47 years.

How realistic is Lockheed’s cleanup plan? Does anyone truly believe that regulators will continue to monitor this project for even 100 years, the time frame set for remediation of certain other contaminants in the soil? Will Lockheed Martin even exist as an identifiable corporation in 2173?

No one knows, of course. For certain, everyone concerned with this project today will long have gone to their eternal rewards by then, as will their children and grandchildren. Lockheed says the unrealistic span is how long it would take to pull every tiny trace of chemicals from the soil using current technology. The highest concentration should be cleaned up in 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, new technology developed in the near future could greatly speed up the process.

But 100 percent cleanup, if unrealistic, is just one concern with the Lockheed plan. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has many problems with it. In sending back Lockheed’s plan, DEP officials cited more than 100 points of contention with proposed cleanup methods or with the data on which they are based. The 29-page rejection letter faults Lockheed for not including more detailed chemical, geologic and engineering data to back up its plan for cleaning up the 200-acre plume that leaked into the ground before Lockheed acquired the company seven years ago.

Lockheed downplays DEP’s criticisms as minor – mostly requests for clarification or more data. It’s a normal stage of the remediation process, said spokeswoman Gail Rymer.

Perhaps. Yet it would seem that with Lockheed’s wide experience in chemical cleanups and access to the best scientific resources, such shortcomings should not have occurred.

Lockheed says it will go back to the drawing board to satisfy the state’s objections, some of which may be easy to remedy by including available data. “We are committed to working with the state to do the right thing for the Tallevast community. . .” said Rymer.

We hope the company means it. Given the record of foot-dragging since this problem became public in 2003, however, skepticism is justified. Experts working for Tallevast residents have repeatedly warned that Lockheed lacked the data needed to adequately put together a cleanup plan. Yet the company has continued to resist calls for further testing to define the extent of contamination and the hydraulic forces affecting its movement underground.

We’re not scientists, but it seems logical to gather all the data before trying to figure out how to solve a problem. And then, try to ensure that it can be accomplished in a reasonable time frame.

Do you think the Tallevast pollution will ever be completely cleaned up? Share your views in the Opinion section of Bradenton.com.

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