110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Mar 20, 2014 - 11:01:26am
PHOTO COURTESY AMY MUNIZZI
Cleanup — An auger removes soil in the 5000 block of U.S. Highway 17 in Deleon Springs in 2012, cleaning up petroleum contamination. Similar work is scheduled to begin beneath the highway at the end of the month.
Petroleum cleanup to begin under Highway 17 in DeLeon Springs
BY PAT ANDREWS
At long last, around the middle of April, the state will begin cleaning up petroleum from under U.S. Highway 17 in DeLeon Springs in the vicinity of the Valero station at the corner of the highway and Ponce de Leon Boulevard.
The cleanup has been 30 years in coming. Now, it’s imminent.
"We're waiting for the power poles to be relocated on the northbound lanes, on the east side of the road,” said Joe Raucci, vice president of the firm hired to do the work, Southland Construction Co. of Apopka.
Moving the power poles, he explained, will prevent electricity from arcing into the petroleum-handling equipment.
At the March 11 meeting of the DeLeon Springs Community Association, Secretary Amy Munizzi announced that when work begins, the highway’s northbound lanes will be closed as crews break up the pavement to locate and dig out petroleum tanks. They will then replace contaminated soil with clean fill.
While the work is in progress, the two southbound lanes of U.S. 17 will handle both northbound and southbound traffic, so caution should be used when traveling through DeLeon Springs.
After work in the northbound lanes is finished, the southbound lanes will be closed and the traffic will be shifted onto the northbound lanes while excavation and cleanup continues.
During the project, the air quality will be monitored closely because of the proximity to Louise S. McInnis Elementary School, just north of the site.
The budget for the project is $7.1 million, Raucci said.
The state designated the Valero site as an imminent threat in 2008, State officials said petroleum contamination from old underground gasoline tanks — which predated the Valero — endangered the springs, about a mile away, and nearby residents. The tanks in this area and possibly in another location or two nearby are believed to have been crushed under the highway when the road was widened in the 1960s.
A plume of underground gasoline has moved slowly more than 400 feet westward, in the direction of DeLeon Springs State Park, threatening the springs themselves and contaminating some residential wells.
"Can you imagine turning on your faucet and having gas come out?" Community Association Secretary Munizzi asked.
The Community Association has been behind a push to get the cleanup completed. The group has also pushed for other improvements, such as rezoning and development standards that the county approved to help businesses build and expand along the highway.
In 2013, the Volusia County Council also designated the stretch of Highway 17 through the heart of DeLeon Springs as a brownfield district, paving the way for special funding.
In the 1980s, the station that’s now a Valero was a Fina Express, owned by Acree Oil Co., and Walter M. Acree was identified as the responsible party in the contamination. Acree designated Universal Solutions as the cleanup contractor, as was specified under the rules, the complaint states.
The site has been sold a couple of times since then.
In 2008, a massive cleanup of soil around the Valero station was completed. In 2012, soil on the Perez property across the street was subject to excavation and cleanup.
Universal Solutions, the company designated by Acree, performed those cleanups, and was poised to clean up under the highway in 2012.
However, a dispute developed, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection questioning the company's qualifications to perform the work. The debate brought further cleanup plans to a halt.
DEP put the work out to bid, saying that a Department of Transportation-approved contractor would have to do the work, and Universal Solutions filed suit.
The dispute has since been resolved. Southland Construction Co. of Apopka will be the prime contractor on the Highway 17 project, working with Universal Solutions.
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