Ex-Fort Myers employee says Dunbar dump site is safe

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FORT MYERS, Fla. A former Fort Myers city employee says he was among those who disposed of sludge decades ago in Dunbar.

And he doesn’t think the neighborhood is in any danger.

A community uproar followed the revelation earlier this year that arsenic was found in 2007 at the site where the city dumped lime sludge from a water treatment plant.

MORE: NAACP: Lack of action on Dunbar sludge site is ‘environmental racism’

Sean Ware, who once worked for the city, said the dumping took place from the 1970s to the 1990s, while city officials say it only happened in the 1960s.

Regardless, those living nearby having nothing to fear, according to Ware.

“People literally drank that,” Ware said. “It’s not anything that hurt me, and I’m 65.”

Concern over the dumping has sparked threats of legal action, worry over home values, and a cleanup bill that could exceed $1 million. But to Ware, it’s much ado about nothing.

“I was told, and I believe to this day, that it was not a harmful substance,” Ware said.

MORE: Outcry led to testing on former Dunbar toxic dump site

Exposure on the job, as Ware experienced, is different than exposure to those living around it, FSW geology professor Dr. Joe Van Gaalen said.

Neighbors who’ve lived for decades near the site, bounded by Henderson Avenue on the west, Midway Avenue on the east, Jeffcott Street on the south and South Street on the north, have wondered aloud whether the dumping led to their health problems.

“I literally swam in that stuff, so I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Ware said. “I don’t know why they’re calling it toxic.”

The latest completed tests don’t show any arsenic on the site, or any threat to the groundwater, but a new, city-commissioned test began in October.

The results from that test were inconclusive, according to city officials, who declined to elaborate on the findings.

The city now plans to drill four new off-site wells and retest the six already on site.

Attorney Ralf Brookes, who represents many in the community, thinks the city is acting suspicious.

“Now that they’re testing for other chemicals, hundreds of them, we want to know which chemicals are out there,” Brookes said. “Yet they’re withholding those results from us, saying the results are inconclusive.

“To me that’s highly suspicious. I want to see those results now.”

Neither the city nor GFA International Inc., the company that performed the tests for the city, responded to a request for comment or test results.


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