Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Park Plan Causing Controversy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Park Plan Causing Controversy

Article excerpt

ORANGE PARK -- The Town Council's plan to buy property on River Road for a riverfront park has split the community between those who applaud the decision and those who say it's too costly and would hurt the neighborhood.

Now, the controversy has attracted the attention of state officials concerned about a different issue: the environment.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is looking into whether the proposed park site at 514 River Road may have been contaminated by old underground fuel storage tanks buried on the site.

Critics of the park plan have told municipal officials that a former owner of the property, now deceased, once owned a service station many years ago and used to keep fuel stored in underground tanks at his home.

In a letter to Town Manager John Bowles, a DEP official in Jacksonville outlined the agency's position on the matter and urged the town to proceed cautiously with its plans to acquire the site.

"Recently, it was brought to this office's attention that the town of Orange Park may be interested in the . . . property for a proposed waterfront public park," wrote Timothy J. Dohaney, environmental manager of regulated storage tanks.

"It has also been suggested . . . that this property, although residential in nature, may have contained or currently contains underground petroleum product storage tanks systems used to provide fuel off-site, and that these systems may have caused site contamination."

Continuing in his letter, Dohaney recommended the town research the "previous ownership and use of the property consistent with good commercial or customary practice in an effort to minimize liability."

In a telephone interview from his Baymeadows office Tuesday, Dohaney said underground commercial petroleum storage tanks are regulated by DEP, but tanks used for residential purposes, such as storing heating oil, are not.

"If tanks on a residential property were used for non-residential purposes, such as fueling something off site or business practices, the tank would be a regulated tank," Dohaney said.

Bowles said he didn't view the DEP inquiry as a major monkey wrench in the project because he already had planned to call in experts to conduct an environmental assessment of the property. …

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