Sarasota residents, business owners fed up with dust-filled air

Sarasota County

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Residents and business owners in the historic Central Cocoanut District in Sarasota claim dust from a nearby concrete recycling business is taking over their neighborhood and causing growing air quality concerns.

It isn’t a new issue for locals in that area, but it’s one they haven’t had any luck getting resolved.

“Several attempts have been made with the owners and the operators in an effort to rectify the situation, some kind of a sprinkling system or some kind of a way to abate the dust, but it has been an ongoing challenge,” said nearby business owner Harry Owen.

For resident Lori Sykora the noise coming from U.S. Recycling is also a constant frustration.

“Tell me what other neighborhood that you can think of where you are subjected to listening to the ‘beep beep beeps’ of industrial equipment all day long. I can’t think of one,” said Sykora. “Yes, we all know there’s construction going on over there for the roundabout work, but there is an end to that. There has been no end to this,” she explained.

Sykora and other residents are also worried about possible long-term health impacts.

“It is a fugitive dust from concrete from who knows where that has been broken up. We don’t know what is in that concrete or where it is from,” she said.

8 On Your Side emailed and left a voice message for the owner of the recycling company to get his response to these residents’ and business owners’ concerns. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, we have not received a response.

Harry Owen has owned a boat repair business next to the recycling facility for years. He first noticed the dust and debris coming over a concrete wall starting about six years ago.

“If a boat sits here for 2 to 3 weeks, it gets gray matter all over it and it requires a lot of cleaning,” said Owen.

The cost of that extra cleaning comes out of his bottom line. In addition to the dusty mess, Owen admits he’s concerned about the health of himself and his employees.

“I am no chemist, but I know what concrete looks like and it is gray dust and I am sure it is not good on our lungs. I probably wouldn’t want to know how bad it is for us long term. I see what it does to hard objects and of course, we are in it every day. I work six days a week 60 hours a week, so we are in it,” said the small business owner.

Owen wants to see some consideration from his neighboring business and some action from city leaders.

“We need the city commission to open their eyes and say hey, what is going on over there. There’s obviously a lot of people that are being affected by it. Somebody needs to put their eyes on it and make something happen,” said Owen.

8 On Your Side contacted city officials who say they’re aware of residents’ concerns.

“The city commission was made aware of this about two months ago. A handful of the neighbors came down and under public comment let us know what was going on,” said Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch.

She says the city has authority over certain items along with the county and FDEP. Ahearn-Koch admits it is a complicated issue that will likely come down to compatibility.

“We have to continually address these issues of compatibility because sometimes they are compatible and sometimes they are not,” said Ahearn-Koch. “Of course, the citizens have the right to quiet enjoyment of their property and businesses also have property rights as well and we want everyone to be able to function together to work together,” she continued.

County officials sent 8 On Your Side this update.

“County staff have received several complaints about dust and water quality concerns in the area of the facility. Under the county local air program delegation from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, staff also respond to air quality concerns throughout the county. Since the beginning of the year staff have conducted six separate facility inspections, documenting that the facility has sprinkler systems in place and water trucks to suppress dust on their interior roads.  No air or water quality violation have been documented.”

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