Panama City Beach makes Contamination Cleanup History

by November 19, 2008 • 0 comments

Tucked away in a retired gas station in Panama City Beach, a small group of bustling people are working to change the way we address and clean up petroleum and other organic contaminants.

Written on a dry-erase board are the words “In God we trust in all things.”  

“We’ve got a lot riding on this, but we have a product that can clean up gasoline and other contamination types with out excavating and removing all the contaminated soil,” said Roger Kubala, one of the owners of Starlight Environmental. 

Historically, the only way to clean a decontaminated site is to remove the “dirty soil” and to run tests to confirm that the site is contaminant-free. This process typically would entail completely destroying everything that was at one time over the vitiated soil and leaving a gaping hole in the ground to remember it by.  In addition, the contaminated soil would have to be transported, which is very dangerous and costly. 

Starlight’s process includes a non-invasive treatment that will allow continuation of existing business operations and can take as little as a few weeks to complete.  Once the site is analyzed, a site map is created that charts out where the contamination plume is located.  Then, several monitoring wells are installed in order to take samples throughout the clean-up.  Based on the continuity of the soil and its absorption rate, a full analysis is assembled to determine how much Ecosafe® is required to emulsify the contaminants. Injection wells are then installed at prescribed locations in order to fully saturate the vitiated soil with the surfactant.  

The fascinating part is where the actual contaminants go.  The contaminants are, for lack of a better term, dissolved.  That’s right, they sort of just, go away – sort of.  The basic elements are still there, but their molecular structure is changed leaving only carbon dioxide, water, oxygen and nitrates.  

As indicated in the acceptance letter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection: 

As you have indicated, a distinguishing aspect of Ecosafe® is its colloid-active ability to produce. . . a reaction that breaks some of the chemical bonds in the contaminant molecules, in order to make them more readily digestible to indigenous microorganisms that perform bio-degradation as the second step.  The initial bond cleavage that occurs is, for example, the breaking of aromatic ring structures, or the breaking of large aliphatics into smaller chains.

The pilot site contamination source is located on Front Beach Road at an old Texaco station, across the street from Peeks Motel.  For almost an entire year, when the gas station was operational, the owner would complain that his employees were stealing gas from him, firing several over the course of 11 months.  By the time it was discovered that the underground storage tanks were leaking, almost 11,000 gallons of gas had seeped into the soil under Front Beach Road and under Peeks Motel.

An initial Site Assessment Report determined that there was a contamination plume of approximately 23,080 square feet, with only 215 feet under the original Texaco site and 18,700 feet under Front Beach Road and Peeks Motel.  

The pilot treatment needed to achieve a 10% reduction of contaminants in order to obtain FDEP Success.  After a 30 day injection treatment at one injection point, Starlight smashed the basic requirements and was able to demonstrate an 83.5% reduction of contaminants at Monitor Well 1, and a 13% reduction at Monitor Well 15, almost 400 feet away. 

The FDEP then gave Starlight the go ahead for the full treatment.  Injection points were placed to cover the entire plume area with each point covering a 15 foot radius.  The injection depths are around 10 feet.  Right now, they are undergoing a process to completely emulsify all of the contaminants.  

The emulsifying process works great for cleaning up gas station sites, old airport sites and sites where pcb’s (poly chlorinated biphenyls) have been stored, among other things.  

In Columbia, Ecosafe® is being used to clean up pcb’s. Treatments have reduced contamination from 800,000,000 parts per billion to just 9 parts per billion in just 45 days.  

Traditional contamination clean-ups entailed costly excavation, destruction and transport and still left contaminated soil to be stored or disposed of.  Starlight is changing the way soil contamination is cleaned up, right here in Panama City Beach.  

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