Florida Water Treatment

Florida Water Treatment

"The Good Water People" Since 1951

City’s Subdivision Back On Agenda


PLANT CITY — For months, plans for a large housing development have been on hold while regulators scrutinized a nearby former phosphate processing plant and other potential sources of pollution. But with the long-awaited report on the Coronet Industries area again postponed — this time until summer — the city plans to move forward in a little more than a week with decisions that would clear the way for Lakeside Station.

The city commission deferred votes on Lakeside Station while awaiting the final report, originally expected this month.

City Manager David Sollenberger is recommending that commissioners go ahead with a scheduled Oct. 25 vote on rezoning and related development decisions on the 2,600-home community off Park Road.

“The idea is to bring this to closure,” Sollenberger said. “We feel it is time to move on.”

Randy Merchant, state Department of Health environmental administrator, wrote in a Sept. 22 memo to the city that the final report won’t be out until July, but “most of the public health assessment work has been completed and published.” Those studies have shown no widespread environmental problems in the area around the Coronet Industries plant south of the city limits.

Mayor Mike Sparkman said he intends to vote in favor of what would become Plant City’s largest subdivision. City Commissioner John Dicks would not commit to a yes vote, but he said he has seen nothing to justify derailing the project.

Sollenberger said developer Sunrise Homes wants to press forward with a decision Oct. 25. A Sunrise Homes spokesman could not be reached for comment. Two area residents, Cathy Davis and Tammy Simmons, said they were surprised.

“I don’t think they should do it until they make a full investigation to make sure everything is going to be safe,” Davis said. “I don’t think it’s going to be safe.”

Simmons, who lives behind the former plant, said, “As soon as everybody hears what the area is about, they’re not going to come.”

Lakeside Station is proposed for 1,300 acres just north of Coronet Industries. In addition to it! s proximity to Coronet, the land includes two old landfills.

As part of the Coronet-related health investigation, officials have tested 145 drinking-water wells, analyzed urine samples of 106 nearby residents and reviewed cancer rates, Merchant said in his memo. The reports generally have found no cause for alarm.

State and federal officials started studying the Coronet situation more than a year ago after residents complained of widespread illness, including cancer. Two lawsuits are pending against the corporate owners of Coronet, an animal feed supplement plant that ceased operations this year. The lawsuits, filed on behalf of residents, contend that people have been harmed by pollution from the plant, which operated for nearly a century.

Coronet spokesman Tom Stewart said Friday that the company maintains that its operations did not affect public health.

“We look forward to the final comprehensive report because it will underscore what the independent scientific studies have already shown — there is no apparent public health threat,” Stewart said in a written statement.

Spiro Verras, a Tampa lawyer who, along with other attorneys, filed one of the Coronet lawsuits, said he was eager to see the state report, which he said would provide a “road map” for the legal case. He had not heard about the delay of the report’s release.

The state has found contamination in dozens of wells but says the contamination in underground water seems confined to the neighbors closest to the plant. Forty-two families are drinking bottled water supplied by the state, although plans are in the works to extend public water lines to them.

Officials say soil and air samples in the area generally do not show dangerous levels of contaminants and cancer rates are about normal for this region of Florida.

WFLA, News Channel 8, reporter Rod Carter contributed to this report. Copyright (c) 2004 The Tribune Co. Record Number: MERLIN_3798309