Water-Related News

In an aging Central Florida Superfund site, huge machines aim to knock out a toxic mess

Soon, the dangers of the Tower Chemical site will be confined in an underground tomb

Enormous cranes are building a structure near Clermont that may seem astounishing not only for its weight, about 250 million pounds, and size, a mass larger than a football field, but also for its place and purpose.

The behemoth is taking shape entirely underground — a monolithic, rock-like tomb to solve one of the nation’s earliest Superfund challenges, the storied brew of dangerous pesticide ingredients called the Tower Chemical site 20 miles west of Orlando city hall.

“It looks like a mess,” said Bill Neimes, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project engineer, of slop suggesting congealing turkey gravy smothering a portion of the work area, “but if you scrape it away, it would be a solid slab.”

Once tucked amid rural citrus groves of what is now a fast-developing corridor of Lake County, the Tower Chemical project north of State Road 50 punctuates the takeaway from so many hazardous pollution sites: It takes so little effort to create one compared to the prolonged, costly and muscular toil needed to clean it up.