Residents: Dunbar sludge results difficult to read

Long-awaited test results showing elevated levels of arsenic in Dunbar have been released.

But for those without advanced scientific degrees, deciphering the four lengthy certified reports the city posted on its website is easier said than done.

“It’s like Greek to me,” nearby resident Janice Watkins-Brown said. “You just looking at figures and numbers and that’s not explaining anything.”

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

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” and failed to release them to the public for weeks.

The Florida Department of Florida Environmental Protection criticized the city’s handling of those results in a letter to City Manager Saaed Kazemi, and Sen. Bill Nelson chastised the city in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

Kazemi said the city didn’t release the preliminary results because they were waiting for the findings to be certified and reviewed by a consultant.

Watkins-Brown’s husband died of cancer 14 years ago, and now she wonders if the toxic sludge site played a role.

“They really need to come out and explain whether it’s dangerous, is it affecting people’s health?” Watkins-Brown said.

Nearby resident Milton Johnson wants to know how bad things are in the soil near his home.

“You just look at a lot of writing and stuff like this, to me it just don’t make sense,” Johnson said.

City leaders plan to hold a public meeting next month to discuss the certified results.

WINK News reached out to at least a dozen environmental consulting companies to decipher the results, but all have yet to respond.

UPDATE AS OF 7 P.M. 

GFA International Inc., the geological firm that performed the tests, notified the city Tuesday morning that one of the monitoring wells installed last week for testing had been tampered with, according to the city.

The top of the well had been twisted off, causing it to fill with sand, the city said. The firm’s well driller confirmed it has since been repaired.

Testing on the well will resume Wednesday, the city said. The Fort Myers Police Department plans to increase patrol in the area.

The incident is not expected to delay the schedule of GFA International Inc. delivering the initial groundwater and soil test results in January 2018, the city said.

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 Dunbar sludge tests

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

December 4 – Fort Myers City Council OKs $150K for legal defense as Dunbar sludge lawsuits loom

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