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Carcinogens found under Tampa's West River development site

TAMPA – Tampa’s commitment to tear down dilapidated public housing and redevelop 120 acres of land along the Hillsborough River is the largest redevelopment effort the city has ever undertaken. However, in addition to wearing the hats of developers, officials must also take on the role of environmentalists, as state reports show dangerous carcinogens have lurked beneath some of the site’s surface for years.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, high levels of vinyl chloride were detected in the area’s groundwater. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says the chemical is often used to make PVC, which is used in pipes, wire, cable coatings and packaging materials.

It can also cause cancer.

The toxins were traced back to a chemical company that once conducted business in the 1500 block of LaSalle Street.

That location is just blocks from North Boulevard Homes, the city’s oldest public housing project that the city started demolition on Thursday. Over the last 18 months, more than 800 families were moved from that complex and the nearby Bethune Homes to make way for the massive West River project.

But while families lived there, the vinyl chloride slowly spread, reaching the ground underneath the housing complex.