Spellman Engineering Site

Last updated on May 27, 2022

A front view photo of the avocado green Spellman Engineering Building.

The Former Spellman Engineering Site was identified in 1992 as the source of groundwater impacts in the Lake Highland area. Currently, a restriction on groundwater use in this area is in place that prohibits the installation of private supply or irrigation wells and also requires a coordination with the City of Orlando for intrusive activities deeper than 6 feet below land surface to ensure the protection of human health.

After the completion of numerous assessments and a Feasibility Study to evaluate cleanup options, several remedial strategies were employed at the site. The cleanup decreased groundwater concentrations in the vicinity of the Lake Highland Ball Fields (Parcel B) to below applicable regulatory levels and a reduction in groundwater concentrations throughout this area.

Additional TCE source areas that were identified under the Former Spellman Engineering buildings have be inaccessible to date and have continued to break down and affect the groundwater in this area. In 2020, the property was purchased, and the new owners have agreed to allow the City to coordinate an additional phase of remediation after the demolition of some former buildings in this area. A cleanup activity is scheduled for the Fall 2021 to treat the remaining known source areas of TCE in this area.

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The Former Spellman Engineering (Spellman) Site (Site) operated between 1963 and 1969. Spellman performed parts cleaning using Tri-clene solvent, a powerful, all-purpose rust inhibitor removing grease, oils, grime, and dirt that contained trichloroethene (TCE) under a contract with the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA). During operations, Spellman reportedly used Tri-clene on the southeastern portion of the property where an enclosed area that may have been used for a parts cleaning process was present. Accounts of spent solvents being discharged in this area were received during interviews during the assessment activities.

In 1992, groundwater underlying this area was determined to have been contaminated by TCE and was traced back to the Former Spellman Engineering Site. The City proactively sought opportunities to work with United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to address the site. Due to community concerns over site stigma, the potential for property values to be impacted, and the uncertainty with the duration for the cleanup, the City of Orlando also requested that EPA not list the site on the National Priority List (NPL). The City and the local community indicated a strong preference for a third-party cleanup using a property divestiture, cleanup, and redevelopment approach. EPA supported this approach, while maintaining that the NPL listing process would move forward if project milestones were not attained.

Since there was no viable responsible party identified, the City conducted a series of voluntary investigations at the site from 1992 to 2004 that defined the extent of the TCE contamination plume, evaluated the potential risks associated with the contamination, and evaluated cleanup alternatives. Key findings included:

  • No human exposure to contaminated ground water was occurring.
  • The groundwater plume underlay approximately 40 acres.
  • An estimated 580 gallons of TCE was present in the subsurface in 2004.
  • Migration to the Floridan Aquifer potentially threatened nearby municipal supply wells.
  • Contamination could be addressed through an engineered remedy.
  • Impacts to the vadose (unsaturated) soils were limited in both magnitude and extend.

The investigations also determined that the area could be redeveloped during cleanup activities and could be cleaned up to meet EPA’s unrestricted use/unlimited exposure criteria.

EPA selected a remedy for the site’s contamination in its 2004 Record of Decision. According to the Record of Decision, the TCE plume originating from the Spellman Site would continue to contaminate the surficial aquifer and the Hawthorne Group intermediate aquifer until remediated, resulting in concentrations remaining the same or increasing.

In 2008, EPA and the City signed the first-ever Contiguous Property Owner agreement. In exchange for EPA resolution of potential liability concerns, the City agreed to implement the site’s estimated $12.9 million remedy. The agreement included a covenant not to sue, which eased liability concerns, and waived EPA oversight costs. Additionally, the EPA did not list the site on the NPL and agreed that as long as cleanup activities were progressing, the site would remain off of the NPL. Implementation of the site’s remedy began in 2011. As part of the remediation efforts associated with the Site, the following technologies were employed at the site between 2011 to 2013:

  • Enhanced Reductive Dechlorination (ERD) injections using molasses,
  • In‐Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) injections using Sodium Persulfate,
  • Bioaugmentation,
  • Electrical Resistivity Heating, and
  • Groundwater pump and treatment (P&T).

The 2015 groundwater sampling results indicated that the contaminants in the groundwater had been reduced by 90% in target wells, compared to concentrations at the beginning of Remedial Action.

In 2017, the city worked with the EPA to address concerns of the potential for vapor intrusion (VI) near several businesses overlapping the groundwater plume to occur. The assessment conducted by the EPA indicated there were no potential risks to workers in previously identified businesses.  

Additional assessments completed between 2017 and 2021 determined that there were isolated areas of TCE present underneath the former Spellman building; however, the structures on the site limited the potential remedial alternatives that could be employed.

The groundwater pump and treat system has remained active and groundwater monitoring has been ongoing since the completion of the preliminary remediation efforts.

Cooperation by the current property owner has allowed the City of Orlando to develop the approach for additional phase of cleanup targeting the remaining source areas on this property. In August 2021, a Remedial Action Work Plan (RAWP) for the additional cleanup was submitted to the EPA and FDEP. In September 2021, the City of Orlando received a conditional approval on the RAWP.

In November 2021, an environmental consulting company for the City of Orlando will implement a bioremediation project to continue the voluntary clean-up of a historic groundwater plume in the area associated with the Former Spellman Engineering Site. This project will include the injection of substrates designed to interact with the groundwater to reduce the present TCE  concentration levels.

Are there current risks from groundwater?

There was determined to be a groundwater plume emanating from the historic TCE discharges. No groundwater contamination of concern was found above 30 feet below land surface and all the local residents and businesses are connected to public water service, so there is currently no human health exposure pathway. The deeper groundwater is not impacted so the groundwater impacts do not pose a potential threat to the public supply wells. Testing for the analytes of concern in the public supply wells is performed in accordance with current regulations.

What is a groundwater plume?

A groundwater plume exists when hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants are present within an aquifer system. A plume of contaminated groundwater may be formed when substances are released to groundwater from a source at a facility. 

Is there contamination in the water?

Drinking water for the surrounding communities comes from municipal wells, which are at a significantly greater depth.  The Orlando Utilities Commission routinely samples all of its wells, and no contaminants from the site have been found in the municipal water supply

Will there be neighborhood impacts during the groundwater cleanup 

Residents and commuters will notice materials staged on the OUC property located adjacent to the site. Two direct push technology (DPT) drilling rigs, support vehicles, and some and heavy machinery will also be used to support the injections. An injection manifold will be utilized for the product deployment that may create some noise in the immediate area during project hours.  No impacts to the roadways, sidewalks or utilities are anticipated to happen during the Phase I activities.

Are there impacts to the lakes in the area? 

Sampling of surface water and sediment have been collected in this area and showed no impacts above current regulatory criteria. 

Can I install an irrigation or potable well in this area? 

Groundwater use has been prohibited in this area to ensure there is no potential for contact with the impacted TCE groundwater. Although the TCE levels in the top 30 feet of groundwater have been found to contain levels below applicable screening levels, no groundwater wells for supply or irrigation are allowed.  

If I want to sell my property, will I have to disclose the impacts in this area? 

Impacts are public knowledge. However, The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) acknowledged that the impacts in this area from the Spellman site are covered under the existing voluntary cleanup agreement between the City of Orlando and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and will not be the responsibility of any current or future property owners.  

If I want to develop my property, are there restrictions on digging? 

Soil sampling and risk assessments performed in this area have concluded that there are no risks associated with the installation of standard utilities. Due to the groundwater restriction in this area, digging below 6 feet will require authorization and coordination with the City of Orlando and the USEPA.  


722 Brookhaven Drive, Orlando, FL 32803  View Map

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