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Questions about arsenic levels

May 2, 2018
Pine Island Eagle

(Editor's note: The following let was addressed to the Lee County Commission and presented to The Eagle for publication.)

Dear Lee County Commissioner:

On April 3, 2018, the Greater Pine Island Civic Association members and directors overwhelmingly passed the following resolution:

1) Lee County Utilities should pay for all testing and cleanup of arsenic contamination at the wastewater effluent spray field on the Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve.

2) Lee County will completely discontinue using that spray field and will immediately commence dismantling it.

We felt compelled to pass this resolution because Lee County Utilities continues to deny and cover up its responsibility in spraying the arsenic that has contaminated our precious 20/20 conservation land in Flatwoods.

In 2012 an annual test of the wastewater effluent LCU was spraying on Flatwoods revealed that it contained 12.3 micrograms/liter (ug/l) of arsenic. The "safe" level of arsenic is 10 ug/l and according to LCU's Memorandum of Agreement with Parks & Recreation they should have immediately stopped the spraying. Instead LCU ignored the problem and kept spraying the arsenic laden effluent.

Soon a monitoring well on Flatwoods started detecting rising levels of arsenic as the poison accumulated. By 2015 the level of arsenic in that MW had risen to 147 ug/l, well above the standard of 100 ug/l that requires a cleanup.

DEP and 20/20 did nothing. LCU responded by closing the monitoring wells and ceased testing Flatwoods for arsenic. No such testing was done in 2016. That's the cover up. And LCU denies it is responsible for the arsenic contamination to this day.

In 2017 new monitoring wells were constructed on Flatwoods using our precious 20/20 conservation funds. When arsenic levels in a new well tested as high as 300 ug/l, 20/20 got together with DEP in March and agreed to build three more monitoring wells on Flatwoods, again using our 20/20 tax dollars. It now appears that an expensive cleanup is on the horizon and it looks like 20/20 may have to pay for that, too. As the responsible party, LCU should be required to pay for all of that.

Finally, 20/20 conservation land is for preserving and protecting native wildlife such as eagles and gopher tortoises that live there and for our low impact enjoyment. It is not for disposing of sewage effluent. LCU claims they haven't used the Flatwoods spray field in two years so they should tear it out. They cannot be trusted to operate it.

Thank you for reading my letter.

Scott Wilkinson Greater Pine Island Civic Association




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