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Residents create Solite Task Force to fight for answers

Group to meet with state officials to seek testing at site

Posted 8/24/23

LAKE ASBURY – In a bold move, residents formed the Solite Task Force for County Citizens in response to the former aggregate kiln company they feel ran a reckless operation off County Road 209A that’s linked to severe health, environmental and quality of life concerns for three generations.

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Residents create Solite Task Force to fight for answers

Group to meet with state officials to seek testing at site


Posted

LAKE ASBURY – In a bold move, residents formed the Solite Task Force for County Citizens in response to the former aggregate kiln company they feel ran a reckless operation off County Road 209A that’s linked to severe health, environmental and quality of life concerns for three generations.

Hugh Peeples, who heads the Task Force, announced the move during the public comment period during a recent Board of County Commissioners meeting. The group’s first business order is to meet with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

The Task Force plans to meet with officials from the state agency in the next two weeks in Tallahassee. A 14-member committee hopes to review and ask questions about the 1,000-acre site, including the proposed plans for development.

Another goal of the Task Force would be to facilitate independent third-party testing for a 600-acre portion of the property that hasn’t been tested.

Kristen Burke, the county commissioner who represents the area, told Clay Today that raising awareness and communicating more effectively with elected officials is another goal for the task force.

Many task force members have skilled backgrounds in career fields that could aid the group in pressing officials for answers to the alleged environmental malpractices.

“The big deal (about Solite right now) is that the task force has been formed. (Members) include doctors, lawyers, paralegals, hazardous waste experts, and concerned residents,” Burke said. She will serve as an advisor to the group.

Peeples said there is great interest in the property for residential development but that the task force and others don’t believe it meets Environmental Risk Assessment standards.

“For decades, the Russell Landing community has been trying to raise awareness to address environmental and health concerns stemming from the property,” he said.  

Stoneridge Farms, the shell company of Solite, asserts it has conducted testing on a 240-acre portion of the property in collaboration with Golder Associates, a long-standing client of Stoneridge and Golder for more than 20 years.

Their past studies with FDEP and Golder Associates revealed contamination, which the organization has already admitted. In a March Zoom call with County Manager Howard Wannamaker and County Attorney Courtney Grimm, three former employees said toxic barrels were buried throughout the property.

Split-sample soil tests on 10 sites by FDEP in April revealed heightened levels of arsenic in two areas.

Two letters dated June 30 and July 10 obtained by Clay Today provide context regarding those findings and their significance, detailing test recent test findings from FDEP and other assessments conducted by Golder to remediate contamination issues from 2011, 2013, 2018 and 2019.

Additionally, extensive research into FDEP archives and regulatory history indicates the state agency may not have enforced environmental regulations as strictly during more than a 40-year span that Solite was in the county before they abandoned the property, Peeples said. 

“The (Environmental Protection Agency) and FDEP have been involved for decades, but the community believes that those agencies have not taken the necessary actions to fully identify the chemicals and other hazards issues on the site and the health impacts on the Clay County community,” Peeples said.