Cleanup of former Dunbar toxic dump could cost millions

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The area bounded in red shows the site in Dunbar where sludge from a water treatment plant was disposed of.

FORT MYERS, Fla. Residents near a former toxic dumping ground in Dunbar are pushing to get the site cleaned up.

City leaders estimate a cleanup could take anywhere between $3 million and $17 million, and no plans are in place to do so.

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

Still, many residents near the land only recently found out arsenic was discovered in the soil 10 years ago.

“Clearly the signs point to deliberate conduct by the municipality,” University of Miami law professor Anthony Alfieri said.

Long-term exposure to arsenic can cause cancers of the bladder and lungs, according to the World Health Organization.

“To think now that we could have been exposed to something serious and deadly is traumatizing, really,” nearby resident Annette Miller said.

The potential for damage transcends health concerns, since the mere knowledge of what took place on the site could lower property values, Alfieri said.

The city-owned land, bounded by Henderson Avenue on the west, Midway Avenue on the east, Jeffcott Street on the south and South Street on the north, was used for the disposal of sludge from a water treatment plant from the 1960s until the 1980s. Homes were built around the site during that period.

Of the 44 soil samples taken from the site in 2007, 43 of them exceeded residential standards for arsenic, the DEP said. Three tests of well water in 2012 showed excessive arsenic levels.

The latest tests don’t indicate a threat. Another round of official tests is scheduled for September 2018, though students from the University of Miami’s Environmental Justice Clinic are considering conducting tests of their own.

The students are soliciting phone calls from residents who live or have lived near the site at 305-284-5199.


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