Florida Residents Urged to Express Opposition to Proposed Toxic Dump Site
Concerned Communities Sounding the Alarm Over Serious Risks to Health, Environment and Property Values from Waste Site Planned for Rural North-Central Florida Region
CRESCENT CITY, Fla. – December 20, 2021 – Known locally as “Don’t Poop on Putnam,” the Environmental Coalition of Putnam County, a growing group of concerned citizens dedicated to protecting the area’s water, plants, indigenous animals and other natural resources (https://www.dontpooponputnam.org), has uncovered a significant threat to the health, environment and property values of residents living and working in this marginalized North-Central Florida region. The threat stems from a proposed dump site for Class B biosolids, also called “sewage sludge,” that, if approved, would allow five truckloads per day of toxic human and chemical waste to be moved from neighboring counties to southern Putnam County. The effects of the toxic sludge have the potential to contaminate the water in vulnerable underground aquifers and numerous homeowner wells, poison the area’s wild game, and pollute the natural resources throughout a series of connected waterways that include Dunns Creek, Crescent City’s famed Crescent Lake (the “Bass Capital of the World”), and the St. Johns River, the longest river in Florida and the most significant river in the state for commercial and recreational use.
“We aren’t just talking about sewage sludge created by the residents of Putnam County,” says Ivee Sauls, coalition president. “The application for this proposed dump site would allow Class B biosolids from other counties to be brought in at a proposed rate of five truckloads per day. This type of waste is very hazardous. Class B biosolids are known to contain over 370 toxins, including heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals that can contaminate the soil, water and air. We don’t want North-Central Florida to become the dumping ground for hazardous waste, so we are asking everyone to get involved.”
Class B biosolids are not pre-treated to reduce these health-related dangers, and while they are treated with lime to decrease odors, community members are still concerned that the stench will negatively impact homeowners, visitors and local businesses throughout the area. The toxins can also create algae blooms that can kill significant numbers of fish and birds due to phosphorus runoff, and they can lead to the development of parasites that cause serious disease and irreversible ecological damage. Additionally, the effects of the site could significantly impact local waterways, including Crescent Lake and the biosphere it represents, but even more importantly the highly vulnerable aquifers which contain the drinking water area residents rely on for their everyday lives; if contaminated, this will cause serious health implications for residents and their families and will devalue properties and businesses.
The Environmental Coalition of Putnam County has been fighting this particular proposal for nearly a year. Today, the organization is requesting the public’s help in preventing all Class B biosolid dumping in Putnam County, and in particular, preventing the South Putnam County hazardous dump site described in detail on the coalition’s website from gaining approval from authorities. In addition to the impact to residents and other nearby businesses that include a day care, high school and church, there are several species of endangered animals – including gopher tortoises and sandhill cranes – that will be negatively impacted as natural wetlands currently thriving on and around the dump site are permanently altered.
To help, the organization suggests Florida residents send their detailed concerns regarding the proposed biosolids site, including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Permit Application Number FLAB07018-003, to Jeff.Martin@dep.state.fl.us and to the Putnam County Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBOA) members listed on the coalition website at DontPoopOnPutnam.org. They also encourage those concerned to attend the upcoming FDEP and Putnam County ZBOA hearings (for dates and times, visit https://www.dontpooponputnam.org).
“We need everyone’s help to keep this proposed site from dumping extremely dangerous toxins in our back yards,” says Janet Sornberger, the coalition’s vice president. “Breathing clean air and drinking clean water is a basic human right afforded to even third-world nations, and preserving natural resources is an important and noble fight that we cannot ignore. The state of Maine recently issued a ‘do not eat’ advisory for deer testing positive for elevated levels of PFAS or ‘forever chemicals’ from sludge marketed to farms as fertilizer. We don’t want that to happen here in Florida. We’re asking everyone to join us in our fight to defeat this proposal that, if passed, will literally ruin lives, communities, and property values.”
In an effort to prevent local waterways, wetlands and property from being negatively impacted, the Don’t Poop on Putnam coalition has presented its opposition to the proposed dumping site to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Demonstrating the public’s interest and concern that their community will be turned into a toxic waste site, the packet included a petition with more than 1,600 signatures; resolutions from the municipalities of Crescent City, Pomona Park and Welaka; and individual letters from all of the five Putnam County commissioners, each of which requested that the proposal be rejected.
Today, the proposed biosolids dumping ground in south Putnam County is still a clean and healthy piece of farmland with protected species living on the property. If the proposal is granted, the nearby wetlands will be destroyed, local wildlife will be endangered, the farmland will become a toxic waste site, and many of the people living and working in proximity to the site will be affected by the smell, the contamination of their drinking water, and the devaluation of their homes and businesses.
Six Months of Key Facts:
· November 2nd: The coalition successfully submitted opposition documents to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
· October 12th: The Welaka Town Council approved a resolution in opposition of biosolids applications.
· September 14th: The Pomona Park Town Council unanimously approved a resolution in opposition of biosolids applications.
· September 9th: Crescent City Commissioners approved a resolution in opposition of biosolids; watch the video here https://youtu.be/6sHh2TP-v2o.
· July 29th: Bobby Payne, a member of the Florida House of Representatives, spoke in a Town Hall informational meeting about the hazards of biosolids, nutrient loading,
algae blooms, and the significant risks they pose to local waterways.
· July 27th: Attendees at a public information meeting were presented with a list of 370 known pollutants from Class B biosolids that could threaten the health and wellbeing of Putnam County residents.
· June 8th: Numerous residents attended a workshop and spoke in opposition of Class B biosolids/sewage sludge dumping in Putnam County, including a representative of St. Johns Riverkeeper, and an infectious disease consultant for the University of Florida who was formerly with the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During the same meeting, commissioners opposed the application of Class B biosolids/sewage sludge for the proposed dump site in Putnam County but were not able to take action as the decision to approve or deny will be made by the Zoning Board of Adjustment in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Watch a video of the meeting here: https://youtu.be/h8noEENYzDM.
About the Environmental Coalition of Putnam County
The Environmental Coalition of Putnam County, known locally as “Don’t Poop on Putnam,” is an organization created to safeguard the water, plants, indigenous animals and other natural resources in the North-Central Florida region from the negative effects inherent in the application of biosolids, also known as “sewage sludge,” which are proposed to be trucked in from surrounding counties and dumped in south Putnam County, Florida. To learn more, visit www.dontpooponputnam.org or follow the organization on Facebook.
President, Environmental Coalition of Putnam County
Vice President, Environmental Coalition of Putnam County