THE ACREAGE — For years, Joe Gagne worried about the fill he saw dumped on properties around his in The Acreage.
A veteran of the solid waste disposal business, Gagne would stop his car and run his fingers through the material being hauled in, dump truck after dump truck. Used to build up low-lying properties, it was mostly soil. But in it he found nails, screws, wallboard, wood, plastic, glass, insulation and Styrofoam.
Gagne knew the fill came largely from demolition and construction sites, and he had concerns. But the stuff didn't appear to be doing any harm and he didn't make waves.
Then last year he learned that an unusual number of local children had been diagnosed with brain tumors. Gagne, who has a 13-year-old daughter, attended a public meeting. While most residents voiced concerns about the well water, he raised his fears about the fill.
"At first I kept my mouth shut," he says, "but now it's gotten personal."
He wasn't alone. At another meeting, surveyor Ken Osborne, also of The Acreage, held up a plastic bag brimming with fill.
"I own a tractor and a neighbor who bought this fill hired me to spread it for him," Osborne later said. "After a while the tractor got a flat tire. I fixed it and it got another flat tire. I got out and started running my hands through this stuff and it was full of all kinds of junk. At one point I found a crushed hypodermic needle.
"I told him and I told my neighbors around here that I wouldn't put that stuff down," Osborne recalls. "It's insane to have that stuff around any water supply, and we all use well water."
County officials have tested soil at school sites in The Acreage and have not reported any connection between it and the cancer cluster. State investigators are now processing soil samples from 150 sites in The Acreage, including some taken from homes where children have been afflicted with cancer. Results are expected in April.
Comprehensive testing of fill for an extensive number of contaminants — known as baseline testing — is done infrequently, sometimes not for several years. It is usually conducted when the kind of material being processed changes significantly.
Testing for specific "chemicals of concern" identified by the state is done more frequently, on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the number of tons produced by a facility.
Those chemicals include arsenic, chromium, cadmium, copper, lead and nickel. The first three, if distributed above accepted limits, may cause cancer.
The lab reports must be made available to inspectors. The company also must also keep thorough records of where recovered screen material is dumped. No RSM can be deposited in a body of water, including wetlands.
The DEP delegates an institution in each county to monitor the companies and review test results. In Palm Beach, it is the county health department.
Laxmana Tallam, air and solid waste supervisor for the county's division of environmental public health, says the county reviews RSM records three times per year and has never issued a violation to Sun Recycling regarding its RSM distribution.
The company has not done as well in Broward, where the county's department of environmental protection is the watchdog. Starting in 2001, Sun has received 20 notices of violation, many of them involving RSM deposited on dozens of separate properties.
The violations were for distributing RSM without approval; processing painted and pressure-treated wood, which can produce high levels of arsenic; depositing RSM in a regulated aquatic area or wetland without a permit; not documenting RSM deliveries; and distributing RSM in which pieces of plastic, wood and metal exceeded the permitted size. Some of those violations involved waste that was produced in Broward but dumped in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Loxahatchee." Unqoute
Now , we come back to the backyards where most non suspecting gardeners take it for granted to grow their veggies on what is there in their yard .REALLY!Just do not do it!Check out what is in your back /front yard soils first .Double dig for debris and demolition fill contaminated with pcb,heavy metals,chemicals or whatever ..just dig first and extract any contaminants before you plant.
We have areas that are prone for flooding so make sure to use rised beds and for more safety precautions :Make your own organic soil.The secret is :COMPOST.COMPOST.COMPOST.
We have learned our lessons from using store bought ready made soil ,some of which contain sludge or chemical fertilizers . Now is the time to recycle your own kitchen scrap and yard vegetations etc..
Composting saves on your wallet ,on the environment and on your health.You can do it.
Come to our on going saturday classes ,if you need help on Organic Gardening in the TROPICS.It is different but not difficult.
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