Polk Commissioners Still Dealing With Fort Myers Waste Shipment Critics

Despite the lack of evidence that shipments of waste from Fort Myers pose any health threat to anyone living in Polk, county commissioners are still receiving a regular stream of emails and phone calls from a handful of residents who are upset based on media reports.

In an effort to put the issue to rest, commissioners have scheduled a presentation at next Tuesday’s meeting by Mary Yeargan, a geologist from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s regional office in Temple Terrace, and James W. Clark III from Clark Environmental in Mulberry, the company that is processing the waste.

Meanwhile, FDEP officials, perhaps in an effort to reassure the public about the issue, on Dec. 19 conducted a “surprise” inspection of Clark Environmental and of the Cedar Trail Landfill, the site where the processed waste will be disposed . According to the report forwarded to county officials, the inspection found both facilities in compliance.

Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 9 a.m., is open to the public and can also be viewed on Polk Government Television, either online or on cable.

In case you don’t know what this is all about, here’s the short version.

Fort Myers officials buried some waste from a city water plant in a pit in a predominantly African-American community called Dunbar in the early 1960s. The presence of the waste only came to light in recent years. City officials initially misled the public about the situation until local media uncovered the facts.

Although there’s some dispute about whether the material that was buried really constitutes a health threat to the Dunbar community, the presence of the dumpsite and the initial response by city officials caused it to become a political issue. That forced city commissioners to agree to remove the waste and ship it somewhere to the processed.

Although city officials originally planned to ship it to a cement plant in Alabama, the deal fell through and they decided to ship it to the Mulberry processing plant instead.

At the time the waste was first disposed in 1962, no state or federal environmental agencies with any enforcement power existed.