Wewa Sludge

By: Candace White
By: Candace White

Some Gulf County homeowners are worried about health issues they may be face because of two nearby sludge plants. The concerns surround Gulf County Farms located just off of Highway 22 and Wetapo Farms just across the road.

There's an environmental riff between local citizens and the plants. Homeowners and elected officials are causing a stink in Wetapo Creek.

Carmen McElmore, Gulf County Commissioner, said, "Gulf County has become a dumping site for sludge."

The sludge is treated human waste, or what some call fertilizer. Bay Environmental spreads the sludge over corn and oat crops, but Gulf County Commissioner Carmen McElmore says he wants to shut the facility down.

"We don't like it in Gulf County. We don't want it in Gulf County, you know. That's the bottom line."

McElmore says 29 facilities, most from outside of the county, dump their sludge here.

The Department of Environmental Protection recently cited Bay Environmental for violations found during a 2005 inspection, but a Bay Environmental manager says the violations resulted because workings followed DEP's standards for hurricane preparations.

The company plans to fight the warning. Company officials say they've fixed the problems that led to the warning.

Bay Environmental officials say they have been utilizing the Wetapo Farms disposal site for about four years with no complaints to their knowledge, but nearby homeowners say they're still worried about their health.

Preston Gibbs, a Wetapo Creek resident, said, "I would love to see us get an answer from somebody that has the technical know-how to say that we're safe, that our community's safe, that our water table is safe."

Commissioner McElmore also says he wants the commission to consider rezoning the site from agricultural to commercial.

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