Deadly Dumping Ground

By: Courtney Hayes
By: Courtney Hayes

Several years of environmental tests revealed Tuesday what residents of one north Port St. Joe community had feared for years.

Their homes were built on the dumping site of the old Port St. Joe paper mill, and now the dangerous side effects of that development are beginning to show.

The residents of Millview and Lizview in north Port St. Joe filed a class action lawsuit against St. Joe years ago. Since 2002 the Department of Environmental Protection has called for a number of soil and water tests. The results are concerning, to say the least.

Cracking, shifting, and sinking homes, they’re all visible side effects of building on a former toxic dumping site for St. Joe's old paper mill.

Cynthia Alexander is afraid her house may be next.

"I feel deceived. I don't know where to go. I was going to retire in this house, but my house is going to fall down, because my neighbor's already did," says Cynthia Alexander, who lives in Lizview.

A sinking home isn't the only thing Alexander now worries about. During a community meeting with representatives from the Health Assessment branch of the DEP, Alexander and other residents found out their health could be in danger.

Minimal risk levels of arsenic, PCBs, vanadium and lead was found in samples of the soil. Lead and sodium was also found in samples of shallow ground water, as well as in surface waters.

"The toxins can affect the body and can be cancerous," says Connie Garrett, a geologist.

Garrett says a child in Millview would probably have to ingest the toxins daily for three years to see its cancerous effects. A woman like Alexander would probably have to be exposed to it daily for 30 years. Still, Alexander says the prospects are scary.

Garrett says the results of those tests are only samples and do not represent Millview as a whole. She also says the risk could be higher when you take into account factors they did not test like the air quality and fish in the area.

Garrett has recommended geologist take samplings from the fish population. The DEP has not commented on whether it will take action to clean up the site or compensate the residents.


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