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3 Area Nonprofits Call For End To Coal Ash Transport Through Jacksonville

Barge Bridgeport Response
The Barge Bridgeport spilled thousands of tons of coal ash off the Jacksonville coast this April.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Northeast Florida Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation’s First Coast Chapter are calling for the city of Jacksonville to stop accepting coal ash through local ports after a barge from Puerto Rico spilled as much as 4,000 tons of the industrial byproduct into coastal waterways. 

“Utilities must be required to take responsibility for their own waste and should not be allowed to put other communities at risk with their pollution, especially those who had nothing to do with producing it,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman in a news release. “Pollution doesn’t just go away when it leaves the property of a coal-fired power plant or a wastewater treatment facility. It becomes someone else’s problem.” 

A petition on the Riverkeeper website, which had garnered 299 signatures at the time of this report, called on the Jacksonville City Council and Mayor Lenny Curry to pass an ordinance prohibiting the transport of coal ash through Jacksonville’s waterways. 

The city of Jacksonville has not yet responded to WJCT News’ questions about the environmental groups’ petition, but this story will be updated if a response is received.

“Importing coal ash waste through the Jacksonville Port produces limited financial benefit, while putting area beaches and waterways at risk,” explains Logan Cross, Chair of Sierra Club of Northeast Florida. “This issue is also symptomatic of a bigger problem. Burning coal has become an antiquated, inefficient way of generating electricity, and we, the citizens, end up dealing with the costs associated with the greenhouse gas emissions and waste. That is why we are committed to the replacement of coal-fired power plants with cost-effective renewable energy alternatives.”

The barge, known as the Bridgeport, ran aground about a mile south of the mouth of the St. Johns River on March 22. Salvage crews successfully offloaded as much as 4,000 tons of coal ash before an April 16 storm knocked the boat off-kilter and released much of the remaining material into the waterways. 

Sediment and water samples collected in the weeks following the spill showed minimal evidence of pollution, but the amount of contaminants like mercury, cadmium, lead, selenium and arsenic in the spilled waste continues to alarm environmental groups. 

The response to the Bridgeport spill was managed by a multi-agency group that included the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Local government leaders had little public involvement in the response. 

WJCT News Partner The Florida Times Union has reported the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is considering enforcement action

Contact Sydney Boles at, or on Twitter at@sydneyboles.

Sydney manages community engagement programs like WJCT News' Coronavirus Texting Service. Originally from the mountains of upstate New York, she relocated to Jacksonville from Kentucky, where she reported on Appalachia's coal industry.