Polk residents protest arsenic-laced sludge being brought to county

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Dozens of residents came to the Polk County Administration Building with high hopes of stopping arsenic-laced sludge from being trucked into the community.

They left on Tuesday disappointed.

“I don’t think they had any intention of doing anything,” said Kelvin Harrison.

About two dozen people were there to tell the county they don't want 30,000 tons of arsenic-laced sludge from Fort Myers to be processed to Clark Environmental in Mulberry.

The process is slated to happen over the next few months. From there, it will be dumped at Cedar Trails Landfill on State Road 60.

The sludge is a by-product from a water treatment plant.

Max Gonzalez told commissioners he is worried about possible emissions from the landfill.

“Environmentally, this would be catastrophic for the area, and I think Polk County deserves better,” he said.

Others, like Venessa Glass, an RN and a mother of two, is concerned about possible health effects. She says exposure to high levels of arsenic can cause vomiting, nausea, endocrine system issues, and a plethora of other problems.

A representative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection tried to quell the fears of residents by saying the material coming into Polk is not considered hazardous or toxic, and that their reaction is emotional and not based on fact.

Even though many residents expected commissioners to help, the DEP has the final say on the issue. So far, the state agency has given the process its blessing.