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Can you imagine living in your home and feeling secure, only to have that sense of security taken away when you are told by the government that your backyard contains high levels of dioxin? Dioxin is a chemical which has long been associated with cancer.

This is exactly what has happened to a community in Pensacola, Florida. The EPA has already moved 358 families as a result of dioxin contamination. This is the third largest relocation in EPA history.

In 1992 the EPA excavated thousands of tons of contaminated soil in order to stop contaminants at this Superfund site from entering the groundwater and destroying nearby drinking water. But nobody did anything about the homes until now. Which means that these families have been living in this situation for at least ten years. One must wonder why it took the EPA so long to ensure that the families were protected.

The houses were unfortunately constructed in an area on and near what once was a toxic waste disposal site. There are similar toxic waste disposal sites located all over the United States. Is your home on one?

When builders develop new homes today, they usually will undertake what is called a Phase I and Phase II environmental study to determine whether the property is contaminated. But, not long ago developers did not undertake that kind of study and thus what happened in Pensacola has happened all over the country. People unknowingly are forced to live on top of toxic conditions.

What has happened in Pensacola reflects the most extreme kind of case: one where entire neighborhoods have to be relocated. Every year, polluters are required to relocate individuals either as part of Court Ordered directives or as part of amicable resolutions between polluters and the homeowners. But seldom are entire communities relocated.

What is a homeowner to do if he or she suspects contamination? Initially, you need to determine if it is true. Only environmental sampling will determine whether a house is constructed on toxins. If that is the case, then the extent of contamination and the levels of contamination must be professionally determined.

Once the extent and levels of contamination are determined, the next question is whether relocation is required or will some other kind of solution be available. And part in parcel with this question is the related question: Who will pay for this?

If the polluter is available, then the answer is obvious. But very often the polluter isn't available and then other sources of payment are required. This can include insurance policies, public funds, and low interest loans.

Competent legal assistance is required especially where a large scale claim is involved. And if it is determined that a residence has been located on a toxic site for years, then the question of current or possible future physical injury must also be addressed.

Most people in this country need not concern themselves with the prospect that their house is built on a toxic time bomb. But, it happens and when it does adequate and competent professional assistance is an absolute must.

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