Fort Myers mayor at loss over why dump site was secret

FORT MYERS, Fla. Mayor Randy Henderson has no answers for why a decade passed without Dunbar residents knowing about a former toxic dump site nearby.

“We’re here today,” Henderson said. “I can’t answer that question.”

Still, Henderson insists City Manager Saeed Kazemi isn’t to blame for a lack of information about the environmental threat.

“Saeed and the (City) Council will solve this problem,” Henderson said.

Kazemi has come under fire over the past several weeks after the revelation last month that arsenic was discovered in 2007 on a piece of land where the city used to deposit sludge from a water treatment plant.

He’s pledged a transparent approach about the site as the city moves forward. An announcement was expected Tuesday about the details of a public meeting the city has promised, but that announcement hasn’t come yet.

Kazemi was the city engineer in 2007, and became public works director in 2008. He didn’t become city manager until 2015, years after the discovery of arsenic in the area bounded by Henderson Avenue on the west, Midway Avenue on the east, Jeffcott Street on the south and South Street on the north.

“He wasn’t the decision maker,” Henderson said.

The most recent testing doesn’t show any remaining hazardous levels of arsenic or any existing threat to groundwater around the site, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. The city has hired a pair of firms to perform another round of tests.

 

Some families near the site may be using well water and septic tanks, City Councilman Johnny Streets said Monday. The city plans to test all the drinking wells within a quarter-mile of the site, with homeowner permission, Kazemi said.

 

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