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City plans to remove sludge from Dunbar site

Posted at 9:34 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-02 22:21:13-04

The City of Fort Myers announced on Wednesday their plans to investigate and remove the toxic sludge from the site on South Street in Dunbar.

This announcement is a major win for people who've been fighting for this outcome for over a year.

The City says it will remove all the lime residual, or sludge, from the nearly four acre site, which includes both city and private property.

"Our voices have been heard," Curt Sheard, who lives near the site, said. "It's huge."

Sheard has been one of many living near the Dunbar sludge site fighting for the last year to get the City of Fort Myers to do something about it.

In th 1960s, the city dumped 20,000 cubic yards of sludge on the now-fenced in site. 

"It's 40 years too late, but it's done. This started a year ago, and we kept pressure on them, so I'm happy. Trust me, I'm very happy," Sheard said.

A contractor will be hired to clean the land, visually check for sludge, and test soil samples for arsenic.

Arsenic was detected in the land about 10 years ago. People living nearby joined a lawsuit against the city asking for $37,000 per day of dumping since 1979. Sheard said one reason is what he calls a cancer cluster in his neighborhood.

"The city does need to make a restitution for those residents affected, and those who lived here," Sheard said.

The city has asked the group to drop the lawsuit, something Sheard said won't happen.

City officials said the land at the site is no longer hazardous.

Excavation is set to begin in November and go until February.

"The day they start excavating will pretty much close this book," Sheard said.

He said the next steps are finding out what to do with the land once this is done to better the community, and to figure out who's responsible for all of this and hold them accountable.