Council Members Discuss Ash Remediation As Northwest Jacksonville Residents Express Frustration

Mar 20, 2018

Council members and their constituents are becoming frustrated with the lack of visible progress being made clean-up of toxic ash in the soil in Jacksonville’s northwest side.

District nine councilman Garrett Dennis called the meeting in response to a recent concern brought to his attention last week.

Dennis voiced his frustration of not knowing about the ongoing project until the week before and used the analogy of trying to board a plane when it’s already in the air.

The process of ash remediation involves removing and replacing soil contaminated with ash that was created and deposited by the city of Jacksonville’s municipal solid waste incinerators from 1910 until the 1960s.

According to the EPA, “The City of Jacksonville disposed a combustion of ash, clinker and ash residues on the incinerator properties. The ash spread to some of the surrounding areas, as well as on the land that was later redeveloped into the Lonnie C. Miller, Sr. Park.”

Part seven of the 5th and Cleveland parcel was one of the main topics in the conversation. It is the only remaining residential parcel that has not had ash removed.

Angela Myers Robinson came to the meeting to hear what was happening to her community in the future. Her property in district eight has already gone through the ash remediation process.

“Communicate with residents and let us know what is going on, what are their plans, and have specific time limits and not just something continuously going on and on,” Myers Robinson said.

Ninety-One percent of work has been done on the parcels. The remainder of the work is being slowed down by limited access to the areas, according to Jeff Foster of Solid Waste, who said some owners are not giving workers permission to do the cleanup.

“I would expect within the next three to five years we would have all of them cleaned up,” Foster said at the meeting.

Roslyn Phillips, Vice President of Hester Group, explained how her group has done a “warm-up” to answer residential questions and do a pre-construction walk-through.

“Our districts are being the most affected by it,” Councilwoman Katrina Brown said.

The project has been going on since the early 1990s and a total of 3,100 properties have been remediated.

Elder Lee Harris, Pastor of Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church, voiced his concerns.  “I’ve heard the same rhetoric for 22 years.”

Harris said the contaminated soil has caused the community to struggle.

“What it has done is it has caused property value to depreciate. It has caused a neighborhood to deteriorate. It has caused businesses to go out of business because no new blood is being moved into the community. The community continues to struggle,” Harris said.

Another concern he said is the health problems that have arisen in the community, such as breathing and kidney problems.

Council members also expressed interest in areas that have not been serviced yet, such as Pope Road, where the soil has to be replaced before the road can be paved.

“We owe it to the taxpayers” Reginald L. Brown of District 10 said of completing the project in a timely manner.

Additional community meetings are expected in an effort to raise awareness for residents.

Gabrielle Garay can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org, 904-358-6317, or on Twitter at @GabbyAGaray

Joslyn Simmons can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org, 904-358-6316