Higher levels, new locations: Arsenic levels found outside sludge site

Elevated arsenic levels were found outside the toxic sludge dump site in Dunbar.

Preliminary test results came back Dec. 4 for a well on Midway Avenue, revealing arsenic levels more than three times higher than the government standard, according to test results obtained Monday night by WINK News.

MORE: Fort Myers councilman wants feds to probe Dunbar sludge

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

The site where the city used to dispose of sludge from a water treatment plant sits just to the west of Midway Avenue. Arsenic was discovered there in 2007, but it was only this year that the finding became public.

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

The latest findings that show elevated levels of arsenic both on and off the property have led some residents to question whether the chemical has been contaminating their water for decades.

Annie Freeman is frustrated by the lack of response she’s seen from the city.

“They won’t even talk to me,” she said. “You go up to talk to them, they say I don’t know nothing.”

She wonders if her cancer, open heart surgery and kidney problems are linked to arsenic.

Freeman’s questions are valid, according to a geologist hired by the attorney representing her.

“Somebody needs to come in here and do something,” Airquest Environmental geologist Sid Duque said.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which chastised the city over its handling of test results showing arsenic on the site this year, is continuing to stress the importance of keeping the community in the loop.

“The new data collected by the City from the four new offsite monitoring wells is an important part of the information necessary to help assess potential sources, levels and movement of arsenic identified in the recent sampling,” the department said in a statement.

City Manager Saeed Kazemi said he hesitated to release the data because the tests were preliminary and had yet to be certified.

City Council member Johnny Streets, whose district includes the site, will hold a community meeting from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at City Council chambers on 2200 Second St.

DUNBAR TOXIC SLUDGE SITE TIMELINE

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

December 8 – ‘Science takes time’ to determine how harmful arsenic levels are at toxic Dunbar site

Reporter:Hayley Milon
Michelle Kingston
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