‘Science takes time’ to determine how harmful arsenic levels are at toxic Dunbar site

Arsenic levels at a former dump site in Dunbar are not at a level dangerous to your health, according to a geology professor.

Florida Southwestern State College geologist Joseph Van Gaalen sat down with us to look at the City of Fort Myers’ first round of certified test results from the former Dunbar toxic dump site.

The results show high arsenic levels found in well water near this site.

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

Gaalen said, “There are numbers in natural environments, I’ve seen arsenic higher than that.” He added that the numbers seen two weeks ago in the preliminary report were almost identical.

SERIES: Read complete coverage on the former Dunbar toxic dump site

Test results showed elevated levels of arsenic in 2007, and in the groundwater in 2012, but those results weren’t public until earlier this year.

Uproar over the city’s lack of disclosure led to the latest round of tests, but the city again came under fire when it labeled preliminary results showing elevated levels of arsenic in 4 of 6 wells as “inconclusive”.

“There are a few things that are what would be considered above what the recommended number would be.” said Gaalen. “Nothing is however egregiously so.”

Gaalen says it could take arsenic levels 10 times above this standard for you to see any major signs of effects from ingesting or exposure to arsenic.

WINK News asked Gaalen if releasing these lengthy reports to the public was the best way of explaining these results and he says while it could have been described better, science takes time, and this data is just the first part in putting together a conclusive report on what’s been found at this site.


June 12 – Former toxic dump site in Dunbar exposed by the media

June 14 – Fort Myers mayor responds to dump site arsenic claims

June 23 – City council announces plan to clean up former toxic dump site 

July 17 – City officials pledge more transparent approach

July 18 – Fort Myers mayor at loss over why site was kept secret

July 25 – Residents to sue Fort Myers over former toxic dump site

August 2 – Residents voice concerns at public forum

August 16 – Department of Environmental Protection begins testing

August 23 – Crews replace well at Dunbar sludge site

October 18 – Geology firm GFA International begins testing for toxins

October 24 – More than 25 residents work with Atty. Ralf Brooks to hold city accountable

November 16 – NAACP calls lack of action ‘environmental racism’

November 29 – DEP blasts Fort Myers over handling of tests

December 1 – Sen. Nelson says residents ‘deserve to know’ Dunbar sludge results

December 4 – City Council OKs $150K for legal defense as lawsuits loom

December 7 – Fort Myers councilman wants feds to probe Dunbar sludge