School District property on Pace Blvd.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Today, I received the following letter from Chasidy Hobbs of UWF's environmental studies department:

Good day! First, I would like to commend SDEC on the plan to build a LEED certified elementary school, way to be a leader in our community!! (One of my best friends has taught at Ali Yneistra for several years and I have spent much time helping her to organize and prepare each year in that very old and moldy building, needless to say many folks are excited to be moving into a new building).

I am slightly disturbed, however, at the lack of environmental testing which has been completed as of today on the Pace Blvd. property. As I am sure you are all aware a Phase I environmental assessment was completed and a Phase II assessment was then performed based on the findings in the Phase I. However, the Phase I did not mention the fact that creosote laden poles and PCB filled transformers were stored on and/or adjacent to the site which the school plans to build on. Therefore the Phase II assessment did not address these pollutants, in other words there was no testing to see if these pollutants are on the property. Why SDEC’s environmental consultant missed or overlooked this important information is disturbing though not something I can address.

What was tested for and found, based on the Phase I, were PAH’s and these pollutants were found only on the property owned by Escambia County. Therefore, a “case” has been opened by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the County property; I have been following closely the actions of the Department of Environmental Protections in this case. On August 25th the DEP sent a letter to the County which stated: “based on review of the available information and the previous activities in and around the properties in question, additional assessment is warranted” and those contaminants of concern which additional assessment is warranted are: Benzo(a)Pyrene TEQ, arsenic, Pentachlorophenol, Cresol and PCBs.

Please do not confuse this email as an allegation that the SDEC property is contaminated! Rather, as an environmental scientist and a concerned citizen I am writing to state that these contaminants of concern are highly toxic and NOT something we want on/under a playground for small children. In fact we have already moved a school due to finding some of these pollutants on site (Brown Barge). I know that SDEC is dedicated to helping to provide an excellent education for the children in Escambia County, I hope that SDEC (and the City of Pensacola!) will have the same dedication to the health and safety of the students and teachers coming from Ali Yneistra and Hallmark by following the guidelines DEP has given to Escambia County.

It will be much less expensive to test now and find nothing than it would be to test later and find something. I encourage SDEC to make the tough, yet obviously right, choice to thoroughly test the Pace Blvd. property before beginning construction. I look forward to hearing that SDEC has initiated this additional testing warranted in order to be confident that the property SDEC plans to build on is not polluted.

Chasidy Hobbs
Advisor and Instructor
Department of Environmental Studies
University of West Florida


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