A Fort Myers city councilman held a press conference Thursday to address the Dunbar dumpsite.
For decades during the 20th century, the city of Fort Myers dumped lime sludge in Dunbar — a predominately black neighborhood near downtown.
The most recent tests from near the dumpsite show arsenic levels that are five times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's safe standard. Those tests were published at the end of last month.
Councilman Johnny Streets Jr. opened the press conference by addressing a few aspects of the Dunbar dumpsite, including the city recently retaining legal counsel.
"But, it was not hired to defend us from any litigation," Streets said. "It was to make sure we treat people right. Make sure we do what’s right, and then, they get a fair share."
Says he'd be interested in economically viable development going on property where city dumped lime sludge for decades during the 20th century.
— Quincy J. Walters (@quincy_walters) December 21, 2017
Streets listed a few facts.
"The fact is: we know what happened," Street said. "The fact is: we know we need to clean it up. The fact is: we know we need that land for economic development. The fact is: that we need to make sure everybody who wants to get tested for any infection that may have come from that. That's our priority.”
The city began addressing the dumpsite this summer by fencing it off after news reports shined a light on it. However, tests on the site began as far back as 2006. They continued through 2011, and Streets says he’s worked for the city in some capacity since 2007 and suggested that he knew about it before this year.
“We were told the level of contamination was higher than it usually is, and I don’t think most of us council members even knew it was being monitored by DEP,” Streets said.
He said the city council was aware of it before this summer, when the city started putting a fence, but doesn’t remember when they were made aware.
"I can’t really answer that because I really don’t know when that came up," Streets said, "but we do know it was out there when we did find out about it.”
The next test results will be available in January from testing done just weeks ago. Streets says probably in the third week of January, he plans to have a community meeting that presents test those results in what he calls layman’s terms.
Streets could not definitively say whether or not residents near the dumpsite were notified about the last round of high arsenic results.