November 29, 2017
DEP blasts Fort Myers over
handling of Dunbar sludge tests
FORT MYERS, Fla. The city is drawing sharp criticism from
the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over its handling of test
results on the Dunbar sludge site.
A letter dated Tuesday from DEP Director of District Management
Jon M. Inglehart to City Manager Saaed Kazemi takes the city to task for
failing to release results from testing that showed elevated levels of arsenic
in groundwater at the site.
“The Department cannot emphasize enough the importance of reaching
out to area residents to keep them informed of the ongoing assessment work,
provide additional opportunity for public input and determine the eventual post
clean-up use of the site,” Inglehart wrote.
The city initially said the results, which showed levels of
arsenic above the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard drinking levels in
four out of six wells tested, were inconclusive. But one of the wells had five
times the allowable amount of arsenic.
“… The site assessment and cleanup have lost a sense of
transparency, both with the Department and the community at large,” Inglehart
Kazemi said Wednesday afternoon that he’s still trying to
figure out the root of miscommunication between his staff and the DEP, but he
disputes the idea the city is trying to hide the findings.
City officials haven’t sent the results from the tests to the DEP,
Inglehart wrote, even though the city has had them for two weeks now.
But Kazemi said he’s been waiting for the results, which are
preliminary, to be certified. Kazemi also said he’s waiting on a consultant,
whom he didn’t name, to review the results.
“I’m committed. I owe it to the people in that area to give them
the right, accurate number,” Kazemi said. “Not piecemeal it. Not inaccurate,
The city has drawn extensive public criticism over its handling of
the site since the revelation earlier this year that arsenic was found on the
site in 2007, decades after the dumping ended. Nearby residents have angrily
denounced city leaders.
“They need to let us know,” South Street resident Luetricia Becker
said. “Let us have a chance in life too. They ain’t giving this people in this
community a chance at life. Because if you don’t tell these people what’s going
on, there’s no telling what that stuff can do.”
Attorney Ralf Brookes, who’s representing residents who’ve threatened legal
action, compared the situation to the water crisis in Flint,
Mich., where cost-cutting measures led to tainted drinking water.
“We’re gonna try to get this site cleaned up,” Brookes said.
“We’re gonna use federal laws to assure the city cleans this mud up, and remediates
it, and gets the sludge out of there.”