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Potential Kenansville biosolids plant meets resistance

Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 5:26 pm

By Ken Jackson

Staff Writer

Kenansville residents were caught off guard last week about plans for a landowner to build a facility that would turn treated wastewater into a quality of fertilizer that could go to market.

Those residents turned out — in masses — to a Monday community meeting to get informed, and unified.

David Palmer, president of the Kenansville Community Association, arranged the meeting to educate the community about the plan and get everyone the facts.

“We had a real good meeting. Most people were more informed than when they arrived,” he said. “It did what I set out to do: to get the facts out there. It couldn’t have gone any better.”

Officials with the Department of Environmental Protection and district 5 County Commissioner Fred Hawkins attended.

Bill Folsom, who owns the 600 acres of land off South Canoe Creek Road, wishes to lease 10 acres to Greenfields Management to potentially build the biosolids conversion plant there. He and his representatives filed initial DEP permits in May, but word did not filter down to the community until last week.

“Everyone’s upset because of the way it got snuck in, the way it was done,” Palmer said. “Bill was invited and didn’t show up. He’s ruffled a lot of feathers.”

The timing of it, impact to local water sources and the Kissimmee River and lakes basin and the location, are the biggest issues residents have, he said.

“If he wanted to put this out in the middle of a 10,000 acre ranch, we’d be fine with it. But the entrance is nearly right across the street from our church and community center.”

Bill Bachstet attended the meeting and shared his concern about potential pollution.

“Why would they want to put this right in the center of our town?” he asked. “We were also told that, in case of spillage, they’d have to close the road until a Hazmat team could clean it up. If that’s on Canoe Creek, that would cut our access to St. Cloud, the schools and hospital. That’s a big problem for something they’re calling non-toxic.”

Residents have started a Change.org online petition to block construction.

Folsom serves on the Osceola Expressway Authority Board, and after Tuesday’s meeting, he said the speed in which the meeting was scheduled kept him and his advisory team from putting together a presentation, which they are now working on.

“We want to put together a PowerPoint. It’s coming together,” he said.

“We intend to do all this above board, and fit in and be a part of the community.”

Biosolids recycling involves removing the pathogens from residuals from wastewater sludge to create a fertilizer-type product that can be used on crops, sod and gardens to replace expensive fertilizers that are often mandated by county land use codes.

Folsom said the plant would put out a product “that everyone can use.”

“It’s a low-budget fertilizer, made on top of concrete inside a building,” he said. “Yes it will add a couple of trucks to the road, and they’ll all be washed out when they’re leaving.”

Hawkins, along with a representative from state Rep. Mike La Rosa’s (R-St. Cloud) staff attended Monday’s meeting. Hawkins said he planned to meet with other county staff to review what’s been done so far and see if there’s other land management standards must be met.

Hawkins said he has his concerns, including whether the pathogens removed from the waste would become airborne, and if the fertilizer produced meets the standards in order to be used locally.

“He still has many DEP and county standards to meet, and as a county we intend to hold him to those standards. This is not a done deal, they have a ways to go,” he said. “I represent all the residents down there. I represent Bill, too. My biggest problem is that the DEP didn’t inform the county the permits were issued, where we could have put notice on the county website. I hope a by-product of this is that are citizens are better informed about these.”