Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Soil at Downtown Parking Construction Site Called Safe

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Soil at Downtown Parking Construction Site Called Safe

Article excerpt

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority's construction of a downtown parking garage stopped for a week because soil at the site, which used to be a railroad yard, contained arsenic and hydrocarbons.

After running a battery of tests, officials decided it is safe for construction workers to return to the site, and work will restart on Monday. The arsenic found in the ground is "naturally occurring" and not uncommon in Northeast Florida, JTA officials said yesterday.

Exposure to too much arsenic and hydrocarbons can increase the risk of cancer, and arsenic can cause nerve or blood vessel damage.

The JTA and The Haskell Co., which is building the $11.9 million, 1,650-space garage on the Southbank, have not determined how to clean the contaminated soil. Officials did not have figures for the size of the area. Roger Sharp, JTA deputy director of engineering, said it is a "very small" portion of the 10-acre site for the garage, located off Kings Avenue.

The garage will tie into a Skyway station at the end of the elevated monorail line that is under construction. Next to the garage, the JTA also plans to construct a building that will be leased for a day-care center, where commuters could leave their children on the way to work.

"We will take every possible precaution and then some to make sure the area of the day-care center is perfectly safe," Sharp said. "We are aware of the problem."

He said the presence of hydrocarbons in the soil, unlike the arsenic, was not unexpected because the land had been used in the past as a Florida East Coast Railroad yard. Oil or coal from trains is a likely source of the hydrocarbons, he said.

If arsenic is part of the natural makeup of soil, state regulations do not require any cleanup effort and "pretty much have a hands-off approach," said Brian Kelley, a geologist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Naturally occurring arsenic typically falls below the level that triggers any health concerns, he said. …

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