Mayor: Fort Myers has handle on former toxic dump

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Residents near a former toxic dump site in Dunbar have nothing to worry about, Mayor Randy Henderson said.

“We’re doing way better. We’ve got a handle on it,” he said. “I know that once the city learned about it that measures were taken to make sure that it’s safe.”

But people near the site where sludge from a water treatment plant was disposed of are upset they’re only now finding out about it.

“I’ve been living here like 45 years,” Lee County NAACP president James Muwakkil said. “I know the area. I used to play in the area. No one ever came out and said hey, we have a site that’s pretty hazardous. Stay away from it.”

The city bought the land in 1962, before homes started going up around it, and used the site as a dumping ground until sometime in the 1980s, even after homes were built.

Arsenic was found 10 years ago in the soil on the land, which is bounded by Henderson Avenue on the west, Midway Avenue on the east, Jeffcott Street on the south and South Street on the north.

No hazardous levels of arsenic remain, nor is there any existing threat to groundwater, the Department of Environmental Protection said, citing recent tests.

But the damage to nearby residents may already have been done, Muwakkil said.

The NAACP intends to keep pressure on the city as city leaders and the DEP work to figure out a use for the vacant land. Henderson is examining the possibility of building a fence around it.

“The main thing is making sure that it’s safe and that it continues to remain safe, and if that’s the case, and it’s my understanding that it is, then we can determine its long term future,” Henderson said. “That task is put squarely on the city management’s back and we look forward to seeing what options and possibilities are available.”

The land will be tested again for toxins in September 2018.

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