Tallevast residents in court, ask commission to postpone land purchase

ejohnson@bradenton.comNovember 24, 2012 

MANATEE -- Citing a scheduling conflict, Tallevast residents are requesting the Manatee County Commission postpone an agenda item for Tuesday's meeting regarding land purchase in the community.

In an email addressed to Dan Schlandt, deputy county administrator, and Robin DiSabatino, District 4 commissioner, representatives of the South Manatee neighborhood's Family Oriented Community United Strong (FOCUS) group asked that purchase of land near U.S. 301 for a county transit depot be rescheduled.

"As this issue obviously impacts the community of Tallevast, we think it only fair that you postpone the item until we can be present," reads the email, signed by FOCUS leaders Laura Ward and Wanda Washington.

Members of the community will be in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa next week for a jury trial in which FOCUS has sued Lockheed Martin for a breech of contract regarding environmental consulting monies.

Tallevast residents and Lockheed Martin are in the middle of a seemingly endless saga after the Maryland-based company allegedly found a hazardous leak at its beryllium plant property at 1600 Tallevast Road but did not inform residents.

As previously reported by the Herald, Lockheed Martin discovered the hazardous solvents after testing the property in 2000 at the request of a potential buyer. Residents learned of the contamination several years after the company began working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to clean the area.

While approximately 250 residents are suing Lockheed Martin for personal endangerment issues, the upcoming jury trial is about funding.

According to signed agreement effective July 1, 2009, Lockheed Martin would

give money to FOCUS to be transferred to an independent environmental consulting firm.

FOCUS alleges Lockheed Martin stopped making payments after transferring $300,000 in 2009. In Sept. 2010, Lockheed Martin informed FOCUS it had re-evaluated the agreement and would not "deliver any future monies owed," court documents state.

Cambe said those monies are being paid directly to the third-party firm.

Now, Lockheed Martin is constructing a water treatment facility to clean toxins from the community's groundwater.

"The purpose is to restore the environment polluted by a former owner of that site," said Gary Cambe, communications manager for Lockheed Martin.

The facility, which can treat approximately 200 gallons per minute, should be running by the start of 2013. A smaller facility, pumping 20 gallons per minute, has been in use for several years during construction of the full-scale plant, he said. The remediation plan could take 48 years.

Cambe said there is an estimated 900 pounds of solvents contaminating 200 acres.

"Because there are so many millions of gallons of water, it takes that amount of time to pump and treat," Cambe said. "The analogy I've used is if you have a large swimming pool and put a drop of ink in it, it would disperse. You can't just grab it. The only way is to pump gallons of water from the pool and clean it all."

After the water is cleaned through a carbon and ultraviolet process, it will be sent to the Manatee County water treatment plan and emptied into the ground, he said.

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.

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