Historical cattle dipping vats in Florida

In early 20th century, Florida farmers were required by law to dip livestock into vats of chemical solution to control or eradicate cattle fever tick. The chemical composition of the vat solutions varied, but arsenic, DDT, and other pesticides are some of the substances that have been found at historical vat sites, according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Sites in Florida where dipping vats existed may pose environmental and public health risks today. Florida Health Department (DOH) estimates roughly 3,400 cattle dipping vats were built.

Locating historical dipping vat sites can be problematic. FDEP gathered what was available from meeting minutes of the Livestock Sanitary Board (bulletin board format list) which was filed with Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services files. This list of dipping vat sites only provides facility name and site description per county (Bryant/1934/Hardee County) and does not include farm addresses or enough location information to identify where these sites are located.

Some dipping vat sites have been found and remediated during Phase I or Phase II Site Assessments. More details on located sites can be found by searching the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Waste Cleanup databases. Some cattle dipping sites have also made it onto the FDEP Institutional Control Registry listing, due to the regulatory controls placed on them – including land use and digging restrictions. However, only in rare instances do field-verified vat sites found during the Phase I or Phase II ESA match up to a vat site listed on the FDEP cattle vat list.

The lack of location information on historical cattle vat sites illustrates the need for a comprehensive ESA. A Phase I environmental site assessment cannot be conducted solely on the database record review. In some cases, conducting thorough site reconnaissance and interviewing past and present owners and occupants is the only way to identify evidence or material information on historical uses regarding potential contamination on a property.

FDEP is collecting any information from the public on the location of historical cattle dipping vat sites. Information can be submitted by calling 850-245-8982. Florida Dept of Health, Bureau of Water is also collecting information on the sites. Information can be submitted by calling 850-245-4069.

Florida Health Department
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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