Barker Chemical Plant – Background Information

The steamboat "Ralph Barker" used to push barges of phosphate up the Withlachoochee RiverThe Barker Chemical Company operated a phosphate-based fertilizer manufacturing facility at the site from approximately 1904 to 1931. The plant received low-grade phosphate “hard rock,” which had less than 77 percent bone phosphate of lime (BPL). This phosphate was used to produce acid phosphate (now known as “superphosphate”), with available acid phosphate ranging from 14 to 17 percent.

The phosphate hard rock was transferred to the facility via an 18-mile railroad from the mines of the Dunnellon Phosphate Company. The former railroad is now Inglis Avenue. Sulfuric acid, used to create acid phosphate, was also produced at the BCC facility. Because the exact method of sulfuric acid production is not known, and because an old drawing of the plant refers to an acid chamber, we assume they used the changer process. This method of sulfuric acid production involved the use of lead vessels and lead pipes to convey the sulfuric acid.

Steamboat "Ralph Barker" pushing a barge up the Withlachoochee River

Lead-lined vessels were use to treat phosphate rock with sulfuric acid. BCC imported pyrites, minerals composed of iron sulfite, from Spain, because the rock contained more sulfur. These pyrites also contained arsenic and copper. BCC unloaded the pyrites on a wharf on the Withlacoochee River adjacent to the Pyrites Building.

The Florida Power Corporation (FPC) established a power plant on a portion of the BCC property in 1926, and the BCC facility closed in 1931. Currently the property consists of residential subdivisions, including the Garden Mall subdivision and Ray’s subdivision, and the FPC.

In March 1995, a resident of the Garden Mall Subdivision expressed concerns about possible soil contamination on his property, prompting the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to collect a series of soil samples from within and around the subdivision. Analytical results from these samples indicated elevated levels of lead and arsenic in the soil. The Florida DEP contracted Professional Service Industries, Inc., to conduct a contamination assessment to evaluate the extent of lead and arsenic contamination in the soil and groundwater at the Garden Mall Subdivision and adjacent FPC property, and surface water and river sediment.

The contamination assessment was completed in October 1995. Because of the contamination assessment, FDEP requested that EPA evaluate the site for potential removal action. Following a preliminary site investigation, EPA determined that additional sampling would be required to complete the evaluation. Under the USEPA’s direction, the USEPA Environmental Response Team (ERT) conducted a formal site investigation at the site from December 4 through 13, 1995. The ERT collected 250 surface soil samples from residences in and around the Garden Mall Subdivision and the adjacent Ray’s Subdivision.

Analytical results for these samples indicated levels of arsenic and lead in surface soil at the BCC site that exceed levels set by the EPA. Based on sample reavailable information, EPA determined that a removal action was necessary to remove the immediate threat of arsenic and lead exposure to human health and the environment.On March 11, 1996, the USEPA signed an Action Memorandum for a removal action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The USEPA conducted additional site investigation work from April 15 through 19, 1996.

USEPA conducted this investigation to establish the vertical and horizontal extent of lead and arsenic contamination in the soils subdivisions and surrounding area. The USEPA collected 190 surface soil samples and analyzed them for lead and arsenic contamination.

Analytical results were used to establish excavation depths and to confirm the overall extent of lead and arsenic contamination in the soil. Removal activities commenced at the site on April 22, 1996, excavating contaminated soil areas, backfilling all excavated areas to former grade, and restoring the site. USEPA completed removal activities at the site on April 2, 1997. They completed site restoration work consisting of replacing topsoil and laying sod or grass seed on April 14, 1997.

In an August 1996 health consultation report, Florida DOH concluded it was possible that exposure to the highest levels of arsenic and lead in surface soils and private wells in Garden Mall Court Subdivision could cause illness. Testing of blood for lead and hair/urine for arsenic, however, found that residents were not actually being exposed to levels likely to cause illness. In 1999, PSI collected three surface water samples from the Withlacoochee River, which borders the former BCC site to the south. Analysis of the water included antimony, arsenic, lead and mercury. However, none of the samples showed an elevated level of any of the metals.

In August 2003, Florida DEP contacted USEPA about residents who continued to claim that contamination was present on their properties. In October 2003, a contractor for DEP prepared and submitted a remedial action sampling and analysis plan.

In December 2003, the EPA contractor collected 46 soil samples in the Garden Mall Subdivision. The USEPA removed soil from properties with high levels of lead and arsenic.

In April 2004, a concerned resident petitioned ATSDR to evaluate the possibility of health effects from contamination in the soil.

In late 2005, the USEPA contractor, Tetra Tech, collected more soil samples from the Garden Mall Court Subdivision to determine if further removal was necessary. Results showed that several parcels in the area still had high levels of arsenic and lead. The USEPA removed contaminated soil from these parcels in 2007.

In 2005, the USEPA Science and Ecosystems Support Division (SESD) collected seven samples from the Withlacoochee River. They collected samples from the shoreline at a depth of 3 to 4 feet below the river surface. They analyzed the surface water sample results for antimony, arsenic and lead

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