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DEPA admits finding high levels of arsenic at two Solite sites

State agency still won’t talk to county to test entire property

Posted 7/20/23

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Despite feeling ignored by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Commissioner Kristen Burke said she would join residents near the former Solite to continue to block any development until specific sites are deeply tested.

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DEPA admits finding high levels of arsenic at two Solite sites

State agency still won’t talk to county to test entire property


Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Despite feeling ignored by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Commissioner Kristen Burke said she would join residents near the former Solite to continue to block any development until specific sites are deeply tested.

Kristen, County Manager Howard Wanamaker and County Attorney Courtney Grimm hosted a Zoom call with three former employees of the former aggregate kiln company who said toxic waste is buried throughout the 900-acre property.

Burke told fellow commissioners last week about the of response from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection regarding contamination concerns. The BCC sent a letter in March to the FDEP requesting further investigation following allegations of illegal dumping activities.

Then, during a joint walk-through of the property with FDEP and potential purchaser and developer Micheal Danhour, discarded barrels were discovered, aligning with the employees’ descriptions.

After the county asked the FDEP to inspect the entire property, the agency said it found significant levels of arsenic in two highlighted areas. To date, the FDEP has ignored the county’s request to test the entire lot.

Following the discovery of the barrels, the FDEP conducted split-sample testing with Danhour on 10 sites in late April. These were the areas identified by former employees during the March Zoom call. The testing revealed elevated levels of arsenic in two specific areas of the property, consistent with the employees’ descriptions.

They said he saw barrels of jet fuel and biohazards being buried or dumped in lakes on the property.

Residents in the area of Russell and Sanrridge roads have reported high levels of serious illnesses, like cancer, Spina bifida and heart disease.

The county can’t stop the sale of Solite, but it can deny re-zoning requests that would block development.

Burke said she wouldn’t quit urging the FDEP to consider the new sampling results and employee accounts and conduct a comprehensive assessment of the entire property.

Commissioner Betsy Condon offered a different perspective, expressing reservations about the county’s limited legal standing since the Solite property is owned privately.

She cautioned against jeopardizing a good working relationship with FDEP. Condon said that she needs to maintain this because separate, unrelated issues are ongoing for her district’s constituents.

“I don’t want to have a negative relationship with the DEP. They know our position on this. I don’t want to poke them in the eye,” she said.

The recent sale and establishment of an escrow fund for 80 acres on March 31 zoned separately as Village Center is potentially intended for residential development, raising additional concerns.

Burke said tampering with soil in the area, especially considering the presence of arsenic and its potential health risks. Disruption of the soil could cause additional environmental concerns.

Burke said “credible sources” have told her developers seek to build a nursing home on the property.

“I very much have an issue with that,” she said.

Burke’s concerns and two crucial letters have once again raised concerns about potential contamination and health risks with the site.

In one of Burke's letters on June 30, addressed to Albert Galliano of the Northeast Solite Corporation by the FDEP, the state agency confirmed the presence of two previously unidentified Areas of Concern on the property. The FDEP’s Hazardous Waste Program and Site Investigation Section observed Danhour’s investigation.

The split samples collected between FDEP and Golder Associates revealed elevated arsenic in soil and groundwater at AOC-5 and groundwater at AOC-2, surpassing the applicable Cleanup Target Levels. Consequently, the state agency deemed additional contamination assessment necessary, requiring Stoneridge to initiate a site assessment and provide a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Facility Investigation (RFI) Report for AOC-2 and AOC-5. The company was given a 30-day window to plan to address the AOCs.

In a second letter, dated July 10, Stoneridge Farms responded to FDEP’s letter in a separate correspondence addressed to Robert Cook, who represents the FDEP’s Hazardous Waste Regulation Section.

The letter provided a quarterly progress report and a comprehensive overview of the corrective action taken for Solid Waste Management Units (SWMUs), documenting past assessments conducted on the Solite property to remediate contamination issues. 

Stoneridge Farms highlighted their involvement with Golder Associates Inc., a consulting firm that has been a client of Solite and their shell company for more than 20 years, to conduct various investigations and studies for a 240-acre portion of the parcel. In this study, the former aggregate kiln company admitted to being contaminated.

The letter detailed the completion of sampling activities, background studies and the submission of an RFI report and other reports by Stoneridge Farms between 2010 and 2019.

Mill Log Creek was a particular area needing additional assessment in 2011, and a report was submitted that August. Further Toxicity Testing was also completed, and a report was filed in May 2013.

A fish tissue report was submitted after Stoneridge, Golder and FDEP met to discuss their next steps in September 2018.

No findings or changes were reported during the current period, and there was no property transfer.

The two letters served as significant background information for the ongoing developments, highlighting the acknowledgment of new areas of concern and the requirements for additional assessments.

Burke said with additional areas of concern yet to be addressed, it’s necessary to conduct comprehensive, independent testing outside of areas previously admitted by Solite to be contaminated, expressing concern that only 240 of  900 acres have been tested so far.

During a post-meeting interview with Clay Today, Burke said she hopes to keep the property under a consent order until all contamination concerns are thoroughly addressed, along with deep concern for the community’s well-being surrounding the toxic property.

Burke referred to a study conducted by MD Anderson where the data reveals significantly high rates of cancer in Clay – 37% higher than the state average and 47%.

However, tobacco is also believed to be a significant contributing factor and particular areas of the county are not mentioned in the study, Florida Department of Health Administrator for Clay County Heather Huffman told Burke.