Bay County Landfill Polluting Groundwater?

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A public interest group says high levels of aluminum are being dumped at a landfill in west Bay County and it could be polluting the groundwater there, so what steps are the Florida Department of Environmental Protection taking to prevent the pollution.

Officials with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says the DEP has ignored two years of inspections showing violations at Big Wheel Construction and Debris Landfill in West Bay County.

"Year after year allowing the situation to exist, and the fact that it could be remedied in a short time. In the meantime, the residents who are exposed to this contamination are coming third or four down the ladder," says PEER member, Jerry Phillips.

Phillips says two years worth of DEP inspection reports have found levels of aluminum at Big Wheel landfill that exceed the state standard. He says it's an indication that contaminants may have seeped into the groundwater there.

DEP officials say samples from the tests have come up inconclusive and they want to do further testing to ensure there is in fact a problem. In the meantime, the DEP has asked the owner of the landfill to redevelop wells with high levels of aluminum.

"Our primary concern is that residents in the area have safe drinking water. We are monitoring the site. We are reviewing the monitoring records. We have been looking at the records and responding to it," says Sally Cooey from the Northwest Division of the Fl. DEP.

According to Phillips, the DEP should fine the landfill's owner and do more thorough testing of groundwater contamination, but DEP officials say the owner has been compliant so far, and groundwater pollution is not an issue at this point.

This comes at the heels of a grand jury report in nearby Escambia County finding persistent water pollution problems due to DEP non-enforcement.