Dunbar residents say damage already done despite sludge removal

The sludge is gone. Arsenic levels in the soil now measure at safe levels. But still, those living at the S St sludge site in Dunbar say the damage is done.

Luetricia Becker has lived in the Dunbar neighborhood all of her life. She said the site has existed for as long as she can remember.

“I played in it from the age of 8 or 9 to the age of about 17 or 18,” she said.

She worries that the arsenic from the sludge has impacted her and her neighbors’ health, saying she’s seen several people on the street die from cancer.

But now, 50 years after that sludge got dumped and months after the City of Fort Myers’ cleanup, new tests show arsenic levels in the majority of the soil at the site is lower than the residential standard.

Out of 118 samples, only eight were above the standard. FGCU’s Director of Emergent Technologies Institute, Dr. Thomas Missimer, says it is nothing to worry about.

“These values actually are quite low. Comparatively speaking, Miami Beach sand is at 25 and the highest here is at 6.3,” he said. “At the concentrations we’re looking at in the residential standards, my colleagues tell me it’s not very toxic. You would have to ingest a a considerable amount of it internally to make it toxic.”

Neighbors who live close to the site say they’re still not convinced.

“It’s a lot of people that have been sick in this community. We don’t know exactly where it’s coming from. We think it’s got something to do with this thing here,” said Dunbar resident Rickey Rogers.

Monday, attorneys for those involved in the class action lawsuit against the City of Fort Myers filed a third amended complaint.

In it, they ask the court to enter a judgement saying the site presents an “imminent and substantial danger to the health or environment.”

They want damages to cover diminished property values, the lost use of their property and their inconvenience, as well as money to cover any costs.

Residents say they still wonder why the city put the sludge in their neighborhood to begin with.

“They put that stuff there and they knew it was there and they kept selling and kept building and they didn’t even care, like we don’t even exist, like it don’t even matter what happened to us here,” said Becker.

They hope the area stays healthy for future generations.

The City of Fort Myers, in a statement to WINK News, said:

“Samples from the monitoring wells within the city owned South Street site are below the arsenic Cleanup Target Level (CTL). The South Street site has been cleaned up and residents completed a survey regarding future use of the site. Results of the survey are currently being tabulated.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Briana Harvath
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