Sunday, April 11, 2021

Serious Environmental and Health Issues Discovered in Tampa Lead Smelting Facility

Tampa. Click for image credit.
The Tampa Bay Times published an exposé on serious contamination at Florida's only lead smelting facility. It is worth a read. The conditions are frankly shocking and reminiscent of working conditions from a century ago. It is hard to imagine the described working conditions existing in the 21st century in the United States. As the article notes, many of the workers are minorities, immigrants, or have criminal records. Thus, this situation exemplifies environmental justice inequities.

Curiously, the site was not inspected by OSHA in five years. Over that time period, workers were exposed to hazardous levels of lead and toxic materials were not managed appropriately. Venting systems didn't work correctly and contaminated sludge built up in some areas of the facility. The images associated with the article are rather striking.

Lead was identified in this country as a serious problem decades ago and was widely banned in most products from paint to gasoline. However, we still use quite a bit of lead in batteries. This smelter did a great deal of battery recycling which is one of the sources of the contamination of the plant. 

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