Residents to sue Fort Myers over former toxic dump site

FORT MYERS, Fla. A group of residents and owners of property near a former toxic dump site in Dunbar plan to sue the city.

Cape Coral attorney Ralf Brookes filed an intent to sue Tuesday on behalf of his clients, seeking monetary damages over the city’s practice of dumping sludge from a wastewater treatment plant. The dumping took place for decades before the city built a new water treatment plant in 1993.

“I had a daughter that died of cancer, lung cancer, and my husband, he had cancer, that’s what he died of, and we all lived here,” said 83-year-old Annie Freeman, one of the plaintiffs.

Freeman, who lives on South Street, has also had cancer. Arsenic, a carcinogen, was found 10 years ago in the soil of a city-owned area bounded by Henderson Avenue on the west, Midway Avenue on the east, Jeffcott Street on the south and South Street on the north.

That finding didn’t become public until earlier this year. The latest tests don’t show any remaining hazardous levels of arsenic or any existing threat to groundwater, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. New tests are scheduled to begin July 31.

Mayor Randy Henderson said he has no answer for why it took 10 years for residents to be informed of the arsenic at the site. He’s thrown his support behind City Manager Saeed Kazemi’s handling of the issue.

Kazemi, who became City Manager on an interim basis in 2015 before formally taking over last year, is promising a transparent approach about the site as the testing takes place.

The city will hold a public information workshop on the testing from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 1 at the Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Center on 2990 Edison Ave.

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