The Florida Department of Health’s Hazardous Waste Site Health Risk Assessment Program
What is a hazardous waste site?
A hazardous waste site may be a former landfill. It could be the site of a former industry or where crops were once grown. It could be any place where chemicals have gotten into the soil, water or air. Contact with the chemicals found at such sites may harm health.
How does the Florida Department of Health work on hazardous waste sites?
Since 1987, the Florida Department of Health (the Department) has received a grant from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). This grant funds a program to assess the public health risk from such sites. This is done with health assessment reports based on environmental data. Learn more about the health assessment process and see past reports.
As of May 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has 67 hazardous waste sites in Florida on the National Priorities List (NPL). These include NPL caliber sites, which are sites that merit federal interest. EPA has more details on the NPL site listing process. This includes a database that EPA keeps on sites. It is called the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS). CERCLIS is also known as Superfund.
Five people work in the Hazardous Waste Site Health Assessment Program within the Department. Other agencies, including the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), take samples of soil, water, and air at such sites. The program staff looks at the results of tests at such sites. The staff studies the known health effects for each chemical found at a site.
How do chemicals harm health?
Some chemicals are toxic in small amounts. Others may be toxic only in large amounts. A chemical cannot harm a person unless they come into contact with it.
Harm from most chemicals depends on:
• How someone contacted it,
• How much they contacted,
• For how long, and
• How often?
There are three ways people come into contact with chemicals:
• Ingesting (eating, drinking, licking lips, or touching mouth with unwashed hands)
• Inhaling (breathing in a chemical)
• Dermal (skin contact or touching a chemical)
The program uses ATSDR guidelines to assess a site. These guidelines help figure out if the level of each chemical found at a site is enough to be a health threat. ATSDR keeps up with the latest research. They update guidelines on a routine basis. This helps provide the best, most up-to-date knowledge on health effects apt to occur when someone has come into contact with site chemicals. It helps the program better serve people who live near sites.
How is a health assessment conducted?
To assess a site, the program staff:
• Gathers soil, water or air test results from EPA or DEP,
• Studies the data,
• Asks for more tests, if needed,
• Looks for levels known to harm health,
• Writes a draft health report,
• Gets review by EPA or DEP,
• Asks for public comment (Note: knowing what their health concerns are is of the utmost interest),
• Responds to all comments in a final report,
• Shares findings from the report with the public,
• Gives advice on how the public can keep healthy,
• In some cases, tells health care providers what they may need to know about a site, and
• Gives EPA or DEP input on how to protect health while a site is cleaned up.
The health assessment program does not:
• Make or enforce laws or rules concerning hazardous waste,
• Provide medical services for people exposed to a site,
• Provide cleanup or relocation,
• Take samples, except for some private well testing, or
• Conduct worker investigations.
How does the health assessment program inform people who live near a hazardous waste site about these reports?
The program staff wants to make sure that everyone living in the area near a hazardous waste site has accurate and timely information. They communicate with residents in several ways, including:
• Newsletters and fact sheets sent via direct mail, email or delivered door-to-door,
• Press releases and briefings, and
• Open-house style public meetings.
For More Information about the Hazardous Waste Site Health Assessment Program:
Call: 877-798-2772 (toll-free within Florida). Or call 850-245-4401. Fax: 850-487-0864.
Florida Department of Health
Division of Disease Control and Health Protection
Bureau of Epidemiology
Public Health Toxicology Section
Hazardous Waste Site Health Assessment Program
4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin #A-08
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1720
Note: Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing. However, if you wish to send an e-mail, please direct it to: phtoxicology@FLHealth.gov
What sites have been assessed in Florida?
This page lists all of the health reports the program has written since 1987 about specific sites in Florida. They include those written by ATSDR. The sites are listed in alphabetical order.
All of the materials below open in a new file. Note: This page contains materials in the Portable Document Format (PDF). The free Adobe Reader may be required to view these files. They are all PDFs and require to open.
• How does the Florida Department of Health protect public health at hazardous waste sites? Fact Sheet (< 1 megabyte pdf file)
Links to Other Web Sites which Relate to Hazardous Waste Site Health Assessments:
(Note: All of these links also open in a new window.)
Resources for Physicians and Other Health Care Providers:
The following offers medical resource material related to the health effects from environmental exposures.
Note: Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing.
For technical assistance with problems or questions regarding this web page, please email phtoxicology@FLHealth.gov