USF gets grant to study scope of contaminated neighborhood

USF Area "potentially plagued" with pollution

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - Getting in the way of development in the area around the University of South Florida are abandoned properties that may be contaminated with dangerous chemicals.

Recently a researcher at USF was awarded grant money to begin the process of identifying these troubled properties, termed "Brownfields" and then planning which ones are worth targeting for re-purposing.

"We identified the University Area Community right at the doorstep of USF as an area potentially plagued with environmental pollution and contamination issues," explains Dr. Christian Wells, a professor at USF who studies Brownfields and their impacts.

Dr. Wells believes the USF are is especially impacted by pollutants because of a long history of businesses which create pollutants, like auto-body repair shops and gas station and dry cleaners.

"We're talking about chemical pollutants, lead and arsenic and hydrocarbons buried in the soil and sediment," explains Dr. Wells, who believes Brownfields are hindering development in the area around USF.

"The properties along Nebraska Avenue that used to be the main conduit to downtown Tampa before the Interstate was cited," may be especially contaminated, says Dr. Wells. "Back in the day a lot of cars with leaded gasoline went up and down Nebraska Avenue. Many of those properties USF environmental scientists have tested the area and shown many of the properties are really contaminated with lead."

Dr. Wells has teamed with the University Area Community Development Corporation to identify Brownfields, and then, along with other community groups, plans to determine which Brownfields are the highest priority and worth targeting first for cleaning and re-purposing.

The research grant from the EPA will give Dr. Wells two years to study the Brownfields before, potentially, beginning the clean up process.

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