DEP: Sludge site with high levels of arsenic is not harmful

The Department of Environmental Protection announcement comes as welcome news for many who were wondering for months how the Dunbar sludge was affecting their health and properties.

But it wasn’t all smiles — some people still are not convinced and are left confused.

“It makes you feel lots better that it’s not hazardous,” Milton Johnson said, a neighbor.

Dunbar sludge site. Photo via WINK News.
Dunbar sludge site. Photo via WINK News.

Johnson lived directly across from the site, which was filled with lime sludge for years.

“One time I was getting worried about it pretty good,” Johnson said.

After getting to the point of nearly purchasing a face mask to wear outside, Johnson is thrilled to learn he will not need it.

“Glad I didn’t waste my money getting those now,” Johnson said.

The DEP said extensive analytical testing by the city and their consultants shows the sludge sitting here since the 1960s is a non-hazardous waste. It is a byproduct of a common water treatment process.

“I’m glad to know it’s not dangerous,” Johnson said.

The demands to remove it, all 30,000 tons, are now subsiding some thinking there is no need.

“If it ain’t nothing to it,” Johnson said, “leave it out there, bury it back down and do what you do to it.”

“If it’s not bad, why move it?” Michael Fleming said, a neighbor.

But not everyone is as happy or convinced.

“I believe it’s almost a let down to say it’s nontoxic,” Fleming said.

A let down to Fleming because he said, many in the community have died from cancer. They thought they had finally figured out why.

“If that caused the cancer like people said it did, it might give people some relief,” Fleming said.

Still, arsenic levels on the site are above standard drinking levels. Many people played on the site and drank from the wells in the past.

One woman said the stigma is preventing her from refinancing her home. For some of the neighbors, their problems and concerns are from over.

“I just think it’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” Fleming said. “I think that they’re covering it up.”

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