Residents concerned sludge from contaminated site is headed for Polk County

Polk County

Residents of Polk County are sounding off about a plan to transport 30,000 tons of sludge to Polk County.

According to county officials, the sludge has been buried underground in Fort Myers since the 1960s. It is a limestone by-product used in the city’s first water treatment plant. Over the years the mixture has absorbed an elevated amount of arsenic.

“It’s a definite concern because those chemicals are known carcinogens,” said Mulberry resident Kelvin Harrison. Harrison and his mother worry because they live within miles of Clark Environmental, the company that will take in and treat the sludge.

“We’re quite concerned because we’ve dealt with contamination in the community before and one of them was arsenic,” said Nada Harrison.

The President of Clark Environmental emailed 8 On Your Side that the material is not toxic. “We are excited about helping the community of Dunbar and the City of Fort Myers,” President of Clark Environmental, Beth Clark emailed. “Sludge is our specialty, and has been since 1991.”

County officials told 8 On Your Side that they do not have any control over the process.

“Polk County does not have any jurisdiction over this process,” said County Commissioner George Lindsey. Commissioner Lindsey said he had concerns until he spoke with the Director of the Department of Environmental Protection. “The Director of the Department of Environmental Protection for the state of Florida certainly knows this stuff, and she has given me her assurance that this meets all of the guidelines and all of the standards as a non-toxic material. It’s certainly requires this extra level of handling, but it’s not toxic material by their definition.”

According to Clark Environmental, hauling 30,000 tons will take 20 trucks a day, and an estimated 4 months. 

After being treated in Mulberry, the material would then be transported to the Cedar Trail Landfill in Bartow.

“They don’t want it in their neighborhoods, but it’s OK for us I guess,” Harrison said.

Polk County Commissioners will hold a meeting about the issue at 9 a.m. on January 8, 2019.

The deal still needs final approval from the D.E.P.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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