While a development plan for the old Southridge Golf Course is currently on hold, some DeLandites remain concerned about considering any development on the rolling land bounded by Euclid, Hill, Beresford and Garfield avenues on the city’s south side.
Beresford Reserve, debated at multiple DeLand City Commission meetings this year, has now been tabled. It was to have had some 700 housing units on the 167 acres.
But should any homes be developed on a site where toxic chemicals like dieldrin and arsenic have been detected?
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says there’s nothing to worry about.
“With appropriate remediation and planning, these sites can be safely repurposed,” Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Alexandra Kuchta told The Beacon. “When a property owner or developer approaches the department regarding the redevelopment of the property, DEP works with them to ensure that the assessment and cleanup of the property is performed in accordance with the state’s environmental laws and regulations to ensure protection of the environment and public health and safety.”
What needs to be cleaned up? According to reports produced by planning and consultancy firm Kimley-Horn, there’s a fair bit.
“The soil and groundwater sampling indicated the majority of the samples from greens and tees exceeded a residential direct exposure soil cleanup target level (RSCTL) for arsenic and/or OCPs [organochlorine pesticides],” one of the reports says. “The primary OCPs identified were dieldrin and chlordane.”
Dieldrin is the same pesticide that was identified as a contaminant in wells near homes on DeLand’s south side some 10 years ago. This is not a one-to-one comparison, though, Cobb Cole attorney and environmental consultant on the Beresford Reserve project Michael Sznapstajler told The Beacon.
“The pesticides that were used on the golf course were used in a different way than at the homes on the off-site properties,” he said. “It’s a completely different set of environmental issues.”
What’s present, pesticide-wise, anyway, is not too surprising, Sznapstajler said.
“With any golf-course redevelopment, you’d expect these types of constituents to be present,” he said.
The cleanup plan, he said, would involve removing contaminated soil, or managing contaminated soil to remove toxins. A similar cleanup, Sznapstajler said, was performed at the former DeLand Country Club, where housing and a shopping center anchored by Publix have now been built.
Any cleanup, he said, is designed “such that you get rid of any risk of exposure to the issue.”
But golf-course pesticides are not the only environmental concerns on the former Southridge site. Waste has also been identified in an area once used as a sand mine and, later, as residents have referred to it at hearings for Beresford Reserve, “a dump.”
The environmental report says, “The waste types in this area varied but generally consisted of wood, concrete, brick, glass, and metal. Minor amounts of municipal solid waste (MSW) were identified at test pits … .”
The test pits where waste was found range in depth from about a foot-and-a-half to 10 feet deep. The report said there was “no evidence that indicated the waste extended into the water table.”
But Florida’s soil is sandy. David Griffis, an adjunct professor of environmental science at Stetson University, is still worried that there’s more in the sand pit than has been detected so far.
“They’re called C&D landfills, construction and demolition. You hope that’s what it has, but has someone thrown in a couple of gallons of lead paint?” he said. “We hope it’s just things that will break down and not cause any problems, but there’s always a chance someone threw something in that could contaminate it.”
Another Stetson University environmental science professor, Dr. Wendy Anderson, is also worried about putting homes on the site.
“I have some serious concerns about the contaminants on the site,” Anderson said. “Whatever ends up happening there, it’s important to me that we not have homes built in areas that haven’t been effectively cleaned up.”
The site has been designated a brownfield by the Department of Environmental Protection, meaning an area needing extensive cleanup due to the presence of previously toxic specimens.
From the DEP website: “The primary goals of the Brownfields Redevelopment Act are to reduce public health and environmental hazards on existing commercial and industrial sites that are abandoned or underused due to these hazards … .”
Beresford Reserve isn’t the first place the agency has seen these chemicals, and testing will ensure the site is safe before any homes can be built on it, the DEP’s Kuchta said.
“Where soil removal is conducted, it is excavated and taken off-site to be disposed of at a permitted landfill facility,” she said. “The process being followed for [the] Beresford Reserve project will ensure the full extent of contamination is identified and properly addressed as part of the overall redevelopment.”
But Anderson is concerned that the standards for cleaning the site may not be sufficient to assure the long-term safety of residents.