U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously said during his negotiations with the Soviet Union: “trust, but verify.” When it comes to the J.E.D. landfill in east Osceola, I am not certain I have a whole lot of trust, but I absolutely believe we need more verification.
Like many of my neighbors, I had only limited knowledge of “coal ash” until we learned the J.E.D. landfill is accepting a large quantity of the substance from Puerto Rico. Although I knew little of it, coal ash has been around for years. Apparently, the landfill has been accepting in-state coal ash since it opened in 2004.
Over the past month, we have been inundated by media reports that coal ash presents serious health risks if mishandled. And yet, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) maintain this coal ash is non-toxic and that the J.E.D. landfill is an appropriate facility to dispose of it. Seems like there’s a lot of confusion and contradictory claims floating around.
So now is the time to do an assessment of all of the potentially dangerous materials— especially the Puerto Rican coal ash—going into this landfill, so that we can understand and tackle any safety risks to Osceola residents.
I strongly encourage the county to take the following actions:
•Conduct a comprehensive review of the material going into the landfill.
•Insist on thorough testing of water near the landfill;
•Explore all legal options to force the landfill to stop accepting coal ash.
•Investigate and test the leachate being disposed in the St. Cloud water treatment system.
•Promote legislation to allow local governments to restrict what goes into local landfills.
•Request additional review and inspection by the EPA and Florida DEP.
•Increased frequency of random inspections of the landfill by County staff.
•Commit that Osceola County never take out of state waste of any kind.
Perhaps the landfill is a secure site for this material and perhaps there are no health threats posed by this coal ash. But the well being of the people of Osceola cannot be left to the good-graces of a business whose first loyalty is to its stockholders, not local residents. Now is the time for forceful and decisive action. We must make sure our water is safe now and in the future. Trust, but verify!
Ricky Booth is an Osceola County School Board member for district 5.