Water-Related News

Lawsuit filed against Fort Myers over toxic sludge site

A lawsuit wants the City of Fort Myers to pay more than $500 million for dumping toxic sludge in the Dunbar community.

The city used a field bounded by Henderson Avenue on the west, Midway Avenue on the east, Jeffcott Street on the south and South Street on the north, to dump sludge for decades in the 1960s.

The area bounded in red shows the site in Dunbar where sludge from a water treatment plant was disposed of. Arsenic was discovered at the site in 2007, and in the groundwater there in 2012, but those results didn’t become public until early 2017.

The suit filed by Attorney Ralf Brookes lists Deretha Miller, Luetricia Freeman Becker, Ralph Henry, and Noemy Rodriguez as plaintiffs, individually, and on behalf of residents of Dunbar against the city.

“You can’t just open-dump this stuff into pits in the ground, especially when you’re in a residential neighborhood,” Brookes said. “They should have never brought the arsenic here and put it in an open dump without a fence, without a liner, without a licensed landfill.”

The plaintiffs are asking for civil penalties of $37,500 per day for each day of the violation, since 1979 when a law prohibiting open dumping was enacted. Brookes said they want to use the money for remediation and medical monitoring.

The lawsuit will represent more than 200 residents of the Dunbar community living near the toxic site.