TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – Tampa’s commitment to tear down dilapidated public housing and redevelop 120 acres of land along the Hillsborough River is the largest redevelopment effort the city has ever undertaken. However, in addition to wearing the hats of developers, officials must also take on the role of environmentalists, as state reports show dangerous carcinogens have lurked beneath some of the site’s surface for years.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, high levels of vinyl chloride were detected in the area’s groundwater. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says the chemical is often used to make PVC, which is used in pipes, wire, cable coatings and packaging materials.

It can also cause cancer.

The toxins were traced back to a chemical company that once conducted business in the 1500 block of LaSalle Street.

That location is just blocks from North Boulevard Homes, the city’s oldest public housing project that the city started demolition on Thursday. Over the last 18 months, more than 800 families were moved from that complex and the nearby Bethune Homes to make way for the massive West River project.

But while families lived there, the vinyl chloride slowly spread, reaching the ground underneath the housing complex.

Tampa Housing Authority Sr. Vice President Leroy Moore said it’s common to face environmental concerns when redeveloping such large plots of land. He said THA deals with environmental contaminates on every project.

DEP spokeswoman Shannon Herbon added that because the toxins are in the groundwater and not in the soil, neighbors are not in any immediate danger. Regarding the safety of the drinking water, she emailed a statement that reads:

“Because the area is served by a public water supply from the city of Tampa, which must meet federal drinking water standards and is monitored and treated under the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, residents are assured a safe water supply.”

Moore said the toxins will not impact the development plan for West River, but it is an issue his team will have to mitigate.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@wtsp.com.