Monday, October 31, 2005

Waste Is a Terrible Thing to Mound

Along the Anclote River, in Florida's North Pinellas County, there's a unconscionable shortage of boat ramps. This state of affairs is incommensurate with the dignity of rational beings and children of God, and must be remedied by any means necessary. Thus, the county is interested in buying a Superfund site and converting it to a recreational wonderland with boat ramps for all.

The site in question was used from 1947 to 1981 by a pair of chemical concerns that produced elemental phosphorus from phosphate ore. It comprises about 300,000 cubic yards of dirt contaminated with arsenic, lead, radium-226, and other unwholesome metals and carcinogens.

Stauffer Management Co., the current owner of the site, is responsible for remediation, and has chosen the dubious mound-and-cap method. Simply put, it intends to mix the contaminated soil with cement, shape it into enormous mounds, cover the mounds with a synthetic cap, and plant grass on top. The mounds will require ongoing monitoring, and should ideally be left completely undisturbed (to whatever extent that's possible on sinkhole-prone land alongside a river, in hurricane country). Stauffer would remain responsible for the care and maintenance of the mounds after the sale, and thus would presumably be liable if they fail. Unless, that is, Pinellas County "contributes" to their failure in some way.

The county seem to be gearing up to do just that. Plans for the Stauffer site include athletic fields, land storage for hundreds of boats, boat ramps galore, and - wait for it - parking lots on top of the mounds.

Some people may think it strange that Pinellas County would consider buying this land, given that it must either pay for the entire acreage while having access to only half of the land, or run the risk of siting recreational facilities atop toxic mounds.

It's all too plain that such people have never felt the cruel pangs of limited waterfront access.

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