JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- USA Today has unveiled a major investigative piece examining poisons that lurk where lead-smelting factories once stood.
You can read USA TODAY'S investigative piece here. Two Jacksonville locations from the USA Today's investigation made the list:
FLORIDA SMELTING CO. - 2726 Evergeen Ave., Jacksonville
Smelting occurred at the site from about 1940 until about 1946; Florida Smelting moved its operations to a location on Buffalo Avenue in 1950, according to a 2002 preliminary assessment by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The Evergreen Avenue site is also known to regulators as the Berman Brothers Scrap Yard. A Sanborn map obtained by USA TODAY shows a small "smelting" building set back from Evergreen Avenue.
The site has undergone cleanups of soil and groundwater because of contamination with oil and PCBs, attributed in part to spills during the removal of oil from old transformers that were scrapped at the site.
In their 2002 assessment, state regulators noted that despite the extensive PCB cleanup "only a limited number of heavy metal analyses were conducted" to check for lead contamination in areas beyond those affected by oil spills on the property.
Noting the potential for lead contamination from smelter operations, the assessment recommended further investigation. According to a 2005 Site Inspection Report provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, tests found elevated levels of lead on-site.
"Numerous samples (particularly around the former furnace) contained lead," the report said. The report noted that 2,482 people lived within a half-mile of the site; about 300 of them within a quarter-mile.
Although the site failed to rank high enough to merit a federal Superfund score, the report notes: "Documenting actual contamination of residential properties would increase the site score." In written responses to questions from USA TODAY in 2011, state regulators said: "Removal actions are ongoing at the site. Impacts from historical lead smelting operations are overlapped by additional contaminants and waste material from subsequent recycling/recovery activities on the site. Sampling is being conducted in conjunction with the remedial/removal activities."
State regulators added that it appears the smelter didn't have a smokestack: "The information available does not indicate the presence of an emission tower or structure. Sampling is being conducted in an iterative process stepping out from the site. Any impacts associated with historical lead smelting operations will be addressed as they are identified in that process."
Soil testing by USA TODAY on residential yards and public rights-of-way near the site generally showed lead concentrations below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 400 ppm hazard level for residential areas where children might play. Only two of the newspaper's samples showed lead concentrations above 400 ppm. -- Alison Young and Peter Eisler
FLORIDA SMELTING CO. - 5800 Buffalo Ave., Jacksonville, Fla. 32208
A smelting operation existed at this site from about 1950 to 1960, according to Environmental Protection Agency records. Although soil tests on the property found some areas with elevated levels of lead, as high as 14,000 ppm in one spot, EPA contractors in a 2005 report concluded the testing "fails to indicate a large-scale smelting operation occurred here that may represent a threat to nearby residents."
USA TODAY tested soil in nearby residential yards and public rights-of-way, but found no lead levels over the EPA's 400 ppm hazard level for residential areas where children play. Sanborn maps reviewed by USA TODAY show Florida Smelting Corp'n and "smelting" at the site. In their 2005 assessment, EPA contractors took 19 on-site surface soil samples and four subsurface samples.
The highest lead concentration was 14,000 ppm; the report said it may be attributable to some sort of localized source, such as a dumped battery.
In a written response to questions from USA TODAY, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in part: "All aerial photos evaluated indicate that the facility was a single structure with no discernable emission tower or structure. Sampling is being conducted in an iterative process stepping out from the site.
Any impacts associated with the suspected former lead smelting operations will be addressed as they are identified through that process." A remediation plan submitted in December 2011 to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection calls for using asphalt to cap areas of contamination. -- Peter Eisler and Alison Young