City takes next step to cleanup polluted site
SEBRING - More than a decade after the Park Street Power Station closed, the city of Sebring is still dealing with issues regarding it. The latest involved Sebring City Council Tuesday night approving spending nearly $27,000 to dig monitoring wells inside the former power plant to determine whether there’s oil and grease pollution. Al McGhin, president of Imperial Testing Laboratories of Lakeland, said previous testing found pollution and contamination of groundwater outside of the former power plant. A previous attempt to drill a well to determine whether contamination existed inside power plant building was unsuccessful because of two levels of concrete inside the plant, he said. The new attempt to create a well will be in the area that should be easier to create one, he said.More wells may be needed if that well shows contamination beyond permissible levels, he said. If that well doesn’t detect pollution, Imperial Testing will draw up a plan to remove soil and groundwater contamination outside of the well, McGhin said. He said the state has mandated the cleanup. One concern is that the water contamination will eventually impact private wells or eventually end up in Lake Jackson, he said. The study will determine an estimated cost for the cleanup, McGhin said. The cleanup plan must be approved by the state and that can take months, he added. City officials have been dealing with the closed plant since the middle 1990s. Assistant City Administrator Bob Hoffman said the plant started supplying Sebring with electricity decades ago at a time when larger electric companies did not serve rural areas. For many years, the plant provided relatively cheap electricity for Sebring residents, he added. At some point, a Sebring Utilities Commission was created that was in charge of electricity and water. But the situation became problematic after the commission was forced to pay for additional power plants, while the population growth did not provide the revenue for playing back loans, he said. In the end the plants were sold to profit-making utilities such as Progress Energy. Hoffman and City Administrator Scott Noethlich were uncertain how the city ended up with the Park Street land and building. Even if some other entity owned it, Noethlich said, the city would likely still be responsible for cleanup. McGhin said his company first became involved in 2003 under a program to remove diesel pollution that included state funding. He said during that cleanup they found oil and grease pollution. There’s no state funding available for cleanup of the oil and grease, he aid.