DeLeon Springs seeks brownfield designation for contaminated area



VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - One of the most contaminated places in Florida is a small piece of land in DeLeon Springs in Volusia County.

More than 20 years ago, there was a big fuel leak under the food mart along U.S. Highway 17.

The gas station looks like any other gas station, but the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said there is a big mess underneath it.

It's not the only contaminated area in the community.

All together, there is a 2.5 acre plume that could cost between $7 million and $10 million to clean up.

"It's a tremendous problem because a tiny bit of gasoline taints millions of gallons of drinking water," said Amy Munizzi of DeLeon Springs Community Association.

Community leaders like Munizzi are fighting to designate the area as a brownfield, which would bring in economic incentives from the state like tax credits, business loans guarantees, and faster permitting for renovations.

Because DeLeon Springs is not a city, Volusia County must pass a resolution first.

The plume has been spreading, so if the state pays to clean it up it would have to tear up US 17, which is the area's main road.

Terry Spalding knows the back roads, but most likely some of the 10,000 drivers that take the road every day do not.

"I guess they would have to learn the detour too," Spalding said.

The current owner of the gas station worries it could hurt his business.

Others worry making the area a brownfield site gives the area a bad name.

Munizzi said it's better to face the reality under people's feet, clean it up, and give their community an economic boost.

"DeLeon Springs is a beautiful little jewel and we are just trying to polish it a little bit," Munizzi said.

County leaders are going to discuss the brownfield issue at their meeting next Thursday.

The cleanup is expected to start in January.