/j e Z -L 2 /2-
Chemicals in pits didn't threaten
drinking water, chemist testifies
By WILLIAM FOX
St. Pttebui TimesStaWrMer
Chemicals found in two borrow pits near Pinellas
County's largest source of drinking water posed no
serious threat, a top state chemist testified Tuesday.
"I don't believe any of it is significant in the
quantities that they've found," said Robert Patton,
chief chemist for the Florida Department of Environ-
mental Regulation (DER) in Tallahassee.
Patton was testifying in the lawsuit the county
brought against the owners of the borrow pits,
brothers William, Charles and James "Bobby" Martin.
The two landfills are in northwest Hillsborough Coun-
i ty, less than a half mile from Pinellas' Eldridge-Wilde
well field, which supplies half the water used in the
Pinellas contends that the Martins allowed dan-
gerous chemicals to be dumped in the pits and that the
Chemicals were seeping underground into the well
I field's water supply. The county is seeking more than
S$3.5-million in damages to recover what it says it
spent to clean up the two pits.
In testimony that lasted most of the day, Patton
said that runoff from asphalt paving has more pollut-
ants than found in the county's samples at the land-
Moreover, some of the samples themselves were
oi questionable validity, he said. Patton had no prob-
lem with the samples that showed traces of heavy
metals such as lead, mercury, chromium and nickel.
But he said two things bothered him about sam-
ples that showed the presence of organic chemicals
(chemicals made from petroleum byproducts or other
compounds containing carbon). One was that proper
sampling procedures may not have been followed.
The other was that a more complex test was not
performed to confirm the presence of the organic
Lacking the results of the more complex tests, the
samples "should be described as tentative identifica-
tions," Patton said.
In exhaustive cross-examination, county w"
attorney John T. Allen Jr. got Patton to back off on ,as
earlier description of the samples as unreliable.
"They're not unreliable, but they're not reliable
enough to make a decision," Patton said.
Allen attacked Patton's assertion that the chemi-
cals posed no serious hazard to the water supply.
Allen noted that Patton's own agency, DER, had paid
to ship about 15 tons of supposedly hazardous materi-
als from the pits to a disposal site in South Carolina.
"This particular material that was shipped should
not have been considered a hazardous waste," Patton
said, adding that his section has nothing to do with
shipping such wastes. "Whether DER made an error
... I don't know. It would appear that that's true."
The trial, which began Oct. 20, continues today in
Circuit Court in St. Petersburg and is expected to last