Fort Myers Waste Controversy Continues To Worry Some In Polk

The controversy over a shipment of waste from Fort Myers to Mulberry continues.

Tuesday the County Commission scheduled a presentation at its Jan. 8 meeting to hear from a representative from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s regional office in Temple Terrace and possibly a representative from Clark Environmental, the company hired to process the contaminated soil so it can be disposed of in a private landfill in Bartow.

The 30,000 tons of waste is coming from what is known as the Dunbar site. The site contains sludge from the city’s water plant that was dumped there in pits next to an African-American community beginning in 1962. Tests have shown the site contains unhealthy levels of arsenic.

The fact that city officials chose to dump the waste in a minority community added to the city’s urgency to defuse what had become as much a political issue as an environmental issue locally.

The controversy in Polk centers around just how dangerous the waste is.

Initial television reports inaccurately described it as “toxic,” but County Manager Jim Freeman said FDEP officials have told him the waste is neither toxic nor hazardous, but deferred to DEP officials to explain those definitions more fully during next month’s presentation.

Tuesday afternoon county officials sent out a press release to re-emphasize that point.

The waste was originally supposed to be shipped to a cement plant in Alabama, but that deal reportedly fell through when that facility could not process the waste quickly enough.

Part of that plan involved initially processing the waste at a limerock mine near Crystal River and barging it to the Alabama plant. That idea was dropped after Citrus County officials, who said they were not contacted by Fort Myers officials in advance, threatened to sue to stop the shipment.

Polk County was also a lot closer and Clark Environmental is an experienced company qualified to handle the waste, which will be treated entirely indoors.

The news about the shipment has generated some conversation from the general public, who voiced concerns Polk is becoming the state’s dumping ground.

The Dunbar waste seems minuscule compared to the waste generated by the phosphate industry and stored in giant waste stacks all over southwest Polk County and are likely to be there forever The Dunbar waste will be safely buried in a lined landfill and that will be the end of it.


Posted in Group Conservation Issues.