Florida DEP IS Growing Teeth


Here we see another example in which the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is showing some strength and concern for environmental issues. Just two days ago we were happy to note that Secretary Valenstein had refused, for the second time, to allow oil drilling in South Florida.

Wink News has published the following article which also contains a copy of the letter sent to Fort Meyers by the DEP.

DEP Director of District Management Jon M. Inglehart criticized the city manager of Fort Meyers for withholding the results of water tests which were thought  to show unacceptable levels of arsenic.

This is in sharp contrast with the DEP withholding news last August of the huge sinkhole pouring toxic water into the aquifer.  At time of the incident, it was not known if the toxins were contaminating nearby private drinking-water wells or not.

Since last August there has been a change if leadership of the DEP with Sec. Noah Valenstein now at the helm, and hopefully, perhaps, a change of policy also.

DEP blasts Fort Myers over handling of Dunbar sludge tests

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

FORT MYERS, Fla. The city is drawing sharp criticism from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over its handling of test results on the Dunbar sludge site.

Jon Englehart

A letter dated Tuesday from DEP Director of District Management Jon M. Inglehart to City Manager Saaed Kazemi takes the city to task for failing to release results from testing that showed elevated levels of arsenic in groundwater at the site.

“The Department cannot emphasize enough the importance of reaching out to area residents to keep them informed of the ongoing assessment work, provide additional opportunity for public input and determine the eventual post clean-up use of the site,” Inglehart wrote.

MORE: NAACP: Lack of action on Dunbar sludge site is ‘environmental racism’

The city initially said the results, which showed levels of arsenic above the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard drinking levels in four out of six wells tested, were inconclusive. But one of the wells had five times the allowable amount of arsenic.

“… The site assessment and cleanup have lost a sense of transparency, both with the Department and the community at large,” Inglehart wrote.

Kazemi said Wednesday afternoon that he’s still trying to figure out the root of miscommunication between his staff and the DEP, but he disputes the idea the city is trying to hide the findings.

MORE: Ex-Fort Myers employee says Dunbar dump site is safe

City officials haven’t sent the results from the tests to the DEP, Inglehart wrote, even though the city has had them for two weeks now.

But Kazemi said he’s been waiting for the results, which are preliminary, to be certified. Kazemi also said he’s waiting on a consultant, whom he didn’t name, to review the results.

“I’m committed. I owe it to the people in that area to give them the right, accurate number,” Kazemi said. “Not piecemeal it. Not inaccurate, not uncertified.”

The city has drawn extensive public criticism over its handling of the site since the revelation earlier this year that arsenic was found on the site in 2007, decades after the dumping ended. Nearby residents have angrily denounced city leaders.

“They need to let us know,” South Street resident Luetricia Becker said. “Let us have a chance in life too. They ain’t giving this people in this community a chance at life. Because if you don’t tell these people what’s going on, there’s no telling what that stuff can do.”

Attorney Ralf Brookes, who’s representing residents who’ve threatened legal action, compared the situation to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., where cost-cutting measures led to tainted drinking water.

“We’re gonna try to get this site cleaned up,” Brookes said. “We’re gonna use federal laws to assure the city cleans this mud up, and remediates it, and gets the sludge out of there.”

following is the text of the letter:

Florida Department of Environmental Protection South District
Post Office Box 2549
Fort Myers, Florida 33902-2549
[email protected]

Rick Scott Governor
Carlos Lopez-Cantera Lt. Governor
Noah Valenstein Secretary

November 28, 2017
Mr. Saeed Kazemi, City Manager
City of Fort Myers
2200 Second St.
Fort Myers, FL 33901
[email protected]

Dear Mr. Kazemi:
We understand that the city now has preliminary data which indicated elevated arsenic levels in
one or more of the six monitoring wells of the City’s South Street property.

At this time, the Department has still not been provided the preliminary report of these
results. Please provide a copy of the preliminary results by Friday, December 1, for our review
to inform our ongoing oversight of the City’s assessment of the site. We also request the results
obtained from the groundwater flow analysis conducted during the sampling event.

We have received the City’s notice for the planned installation of four additional monitoring
wells. We agree these wells will aid in the determination of any other potential offsite sources
that may have contributed to the elevated monitoring levels, and insist the City will install them
as expediently as possible.

Please provide a minimum of a week’s notice prior to sampling as the
Department will conduct split sampling with the City on the next groundwater sampling round of
ten wells (six original locations, four new). Furthermore, should the Department locate any
existing groundwater wells that will aid in the determination of any potential offsite sources, the
Department urges the City to sample those wells to expedite the assessment process.

The Department remains available as needed as the City works to amend its assessment plan and
to working closely with the City to ensure that all aspects of the plan are achieved once it is
finalized and approved.
It is our understanding that the soil sampling is being conducted at this time and the results will
be available in early January. Please keep us updated with the analysis process. We are aware
that the City has lost its Communication Director, and the information flow from the City to the
general public has languished. As a result, the site assessment and cleanup have lost a sense of
transparency, both with the Department and the community at large.

The Department cannot emphasize enough the importance of reaching out to area residents to
keep them informed of the ongoing assessment work, provide additional opportunity for public
input and determine the eventual post clean-up use of the site. We request that you keep the
Department regularly updated with these efforts.

We also request an update on the City’s efforts to respond to resident concerns obtained during
the public meeting held Aug. 1, 2017, and your plans to communicate results from the ongoing
assessment as they become available.

While we acknowledge the City is following the appropriate protocols in conducting the
assessment originally presented to the Department, we are concerned about the City’s lack of
communication with us and all other stakeholders. We expect to receive all existing sampling
results by December 1, and continue to stress that the City must keep the community updated on
progress and share results throughout the assessment and cleanup processes, and future use plans
as they are developed.

Jon M. Iglehart
Director of District Management
cc: Jennifer Carpenter
Dee Ann Miller
Lauren Engel


Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-