Changes to Fort Myers facility lower release of cancer-causing gas; families still worry

Reporter: Claire Galt Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

A neighborhood can rest easier after Lee-Sar American Contract Systems Facility completed the installation of two dry bed scrubbers that cuts down the amount of cancerous gas dramatically.

For nearly a decade, the facility off Arc Way, in between Metro Parkway and Plantation Road, released nearly five pounds of cancerous gas a day into the air of the Fort Myers neighborhood.

Now, the Department of Environmental Protection said it’s only releasing .05 pounds.

Cindy Banyai has spent the last 3 weeks terrified that she and her children will develop cancer.

“It’s something that I’m very concerned about, think about all the time,” Banyai said.

Not because the doctors found something, not because it runs in the family, but because on June 22, the environmental protection agency announced anyone who lives works or plays near the Lee Sars American Contract Systems Plant could be at an increased risk to develop cancer.

“It’s extremely difficult because we have been going to school in this area since 2012,” Banyai said.

Since 2011, the plant released a toxic chemical called Ethylene Oxide, or ETO, into the air, and anyone and everyone who lives nearby has been breathing it in.

Until Friday.

That’s when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the plant finished voluntarily installing these devices, called Scrubbers, to reduce ETO emissions by 99.9%

“I’m very happy that the building or the factory is doing what they need to do to move forward and protect the community, but I’m concerned about what happens to those of us who may have been affected before that,” Banyai said.

Lee-Sars American Contract Systems is located along Ademo Lane in Fort Myers, east of Metro Parkway and south of Page Field.

Nearby is Fort Myers Montessori, where Banyai’s children go, and Evangelical Christian School, where Amanda Hawkins sends her kids.

“My daughter has been at ECS since she was two, and she’s almost nine,” Hawkins said. “Almost seven years now, I worked at the Villas Elementary for seven years myself, and she goes to Coastal Lee Gymnastics, which is literally four or five buildings away.”

They’re glad something, anything, is being done, but they can’t help but worry about how the past will affect their future.

“What about us? What if we come down with cancer in the future?” Banyai said.

They are also worried about how it will affect their children.

“We need to know that it’s safe it has to be safe for our kids to go to school,” Hawkins said.

The CDC will provide answers soon.

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