Florida Fines Lockheed Martin $50,000 for Tainted Water Discharge

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:18 PM CDT
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Florida Fines Lockheed Martin $50,000 for Tainted Water Discharge

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TALLEVAST, Florida, October 13, 2008 (ENS) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection today reached a legal agreement with defense contractor Lockheed Martin to resolve violations that occurred when about 5,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was released from the company's on-site pump and treat system in the small town of Tallevast on Florida's west coast.

The company was using the pump and treat system to clean up long-standing groundwater contamination from the site of a former nuclear weapons parts production facility.

The wastewater contaminated with volatile organic compounds escaped on August 3, after a faulty shut-off sensor and a compromised secondary containment structure allowed the release of the contaminated groundwater.

"These are significant violations, and DEP has taken the necessary steps to ensure that Lockheed Martin is taking swift action to address these issues in a timely manner," said DEP Southwest District Director Deborah Getzoff.

"DEP is committed to enforcing the state's environmental regulations, and we are confident that Lockheed Martin has taken these violations seriously," she said.

As a part of the enforcement agreement, Lockheed Martin has 30 days to pay DEP almost $50,000 in penalties and agency costs.

The company must also upgrade the failed pump and treat system. Lockheed Martin cannot resume operations of the system until DEP's provides written authorization to resume pumping.

Lockheed Martin is cleaning up the groundwater associated with the release to prevent further migration of the contaminated water into the deeper aquifers.

The company drilled 15 shallow extraction wells in the area around the treatment plant's secondary containment tank. A double-walled storage tank was brought on site to hold the water extracted from the ground. The water was transferred from the storage tank to tanker trucks, which transported the water off site to a permitted treatment and disposal facility.

DEP is currently reviewing Lockheed Martin's long-term plan to clean up groundwater contamination that has historically moved off-site and into other Tallevast properties in this town of about 100 families.

In 1996, Lockheed Martin assumed ownership of the former Loral American Beryllium Company, which was producing parts for nuclear weapons and reactors in Tallevast. ABC's operations were discontinued in 1997, and the property was sold in 2000.

In 2000, during due diligence activities connected with the sale, volatile organic compounds were identified in shallow groundwater beneath former concrete sumps located on the former ABC site. The volatile organic compounds are primarily trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene, commonly used industrial solvents and degreasers, and their breakdown products.

Lockheed Martin notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and entered into a voluntary site cleanup.

But the company did not notify the residents, and the people of Tallevast did not learn that they were living atop a plume of toxic chemicals until 2003 - three years after the problem was discovered.

Based on more extensive sampling from 2002 to 2003, Lockheed Martin discovered that the volatile organic compounds had migrated off-site to the northeast, east and southeast of the ABC property line.

The DEP was notified of the discovery of the off-site contamination and has been involved in the cleanup process.

A third site assessment completed by the company and submitted to the state indicates that groundwater in the vicinity of the site is impacted with volatile organic compounds and 1,4-dioxane. These impacts cover an area of about 200 acres and extend below ground approximately 200 feet.

Despite agreeing to do the cleanup, the company has declined to relocate the small community of eighty houses, claiming that the contamination poses no risk to the residents' health.

Residents say they are seeing increased incidences of various cancers, breathing problems, neurological problems, miscarriages, and unusual nose bleeds. Over the last three years most deaths in the community have been related to throat, stomach, and digestive cancers, they say.

Lockheed Martin says it has made a medical program and a property value guarantee program available to residents in the vicinity of the site.

The medical program provides free examinations to residents and former employees. The property value guarantee provides gap payments to residents and property owners wishing to sell their property if they are unable to get full market value due to the groundwater contamination in the area

Lockheed Martin says it remains committed to removing the contamination from the Tallevast community and will proceed with a plan to conduct further groundwater and soil investigation as well as an Interim Remedial Action. The company has entered into a consent decree with the state of Florida that identifies a definitive plan for cleanup action.

{Photo: Night drilling in the Tallevast community to install groundwater monitoring wells. (Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin)}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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