Daily News Archive

Wood Treatment Facility Contaminants Floridan Aquifer
(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2003)
Arsenic and other contaminants from the active Cabot Carbon-Koppers wood treatment facility in Gainesville, Florida, a Superfund cleanup site, has contaminated the Floridan Aquifer, according to the September 8th South Florida Sun Sentinel. The aquifer is 2 miles from a drinking water well field that provides water to 135,000 residents. An investigation of the 85-year-old facility's groundwater and soils found arsenic, naphthalene, acetone and benzene 156 feet below the surface in the aquifer.

Arsenic was found at levels of 30 parts per billion (ppb). Although current federal drinking water standards limit arsenic to 50 parts per billion (ppb), beginning January 2006 federal standards will require limits of 10 ppb.

These findings have grabbed the attention of local officials. Brett Goodman, the utility's senior environmental engineer for water and wastewater, told the Sun Sentinel that because the contamination is within the capture zone for 15 wells it could potentially be drawn into the well pump stations over the next couple of years or decades. While two monitoring wells have been drilled, an additional number have been proposed to help monitor the area and the site's contamination.

Although the U.S. EPA designated the site as a Superfund site in 1983, cleanup did not begin until the early 1990's. Chris Bird, director of the county's environmental protection department told the paper, "The fact that we have now detected these chemicals in the Floridan under the site, that is going to require a whole new look for the cleanup operation."

The site and its surrounding area has been a concern for years to local officials and residents.
According to the Florida Department of the Environment, the wood treatment facility originally used pentachlorphenol, copper chromium arsenate (CCA), and creosote to preserve utility poles and timbers. Currently, only CCA is used.

The arsenic contamination is from the CCA used to treat wood commonly used in utility poles, picnic tables, fences, playground equipment, and pilings. According to Beyond Pesticides' report, Poison Poles, ingestion of arsenic can produce pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can produce abnormal heart function, blood vessel damage, decreased production of red and white blood cells, liver and/or kidney injury, impaired nerve function and damage to a developing fetus. Studies also show that it can lead to chronic damage such as reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, mutations, endocrine disruption and cancer.

For background information on the Cabot Carbon-Koppers, see http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/quick_topics/publications/wc/sites/summary/007.pdf. For more information about arsenic used in wood treatment, see Beyond Pesticides' Wood Preservatives program page (http://www.beyondpesticides.org/wood/index.htm).