For the past three years, there has been an ongoing dispute between the City of St. Augustine, the state Department of Environmental Protection and some local activists — with Ed Slavin as well as Tony and Judith Seraphin at the forefront.
Slavin, who is sometimes credited with uncovering the violation of state Department of Environmental Protection rules, maintains his own blog, critical of the City’s actions at this link.
The violation occurred when city staff took dirt from St. Augustine’s Old City Reservoir site on Riberia Street and dumped it into a water-filled borrow pit on Holmes Boulevard,
Even though the DEP fined the city and told it to remove the waste from the Holmes Boulevard site, the controversy surrounding this issue has yet to subside.
Originally the City proposed to return the material to the old landfill site on Riberia Street to the immediate uproar of Lincolnville residents like the Seraphins and others. Slavin wrote â€œTwo years ago today, on February 27, 2006: Criminal investigators from the EPA Criminal Investigations Division (CID) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection arrived at the site of the City of St. Augustine’s Old City Reservoir and were lied to by city officials, represented by AKERMAN SENTERFITT partner WILLIAM L. PENCE. No one has been prosecuted (yet).â€
Now it appears as though a â€œwhite knightâ€ has been found in the form of Nassau County who may be willing to enter into an interlocal agreement with St. Augustine to take 40,000 tons of top soil — if the City is willing to perform a sifting process to screen out an estimated 5% of the raw fill material believed to be solid waste. The City would pay the cost of having the â€œcleanâ€ topsoil transported to the Nassau County landfill site.
Although the Nassau County Commission and the St. Augustine City Commission would have to make any final approvals, it was reported today that Lee Pickett, Nassau County landfill director, was ready and in favor of seeing the transaction happen. John Regan, St. Augustine chief of operations, has been working to address the concerns of all of the parties; including the Lincolnville neighborhood residents.
Nassau Countyâ€™s reason to pursue this deal? Money. Nassau County would have paid about $60,000.00 to buy the topsoil from other sources because they use it every day to cover their landfill.
Another question being asked by some is why, if the fill material can be sifted and independently tested and certified as â€œnon-hazardousâ€, which the City claims it can, would we give it to another county when our own landfill could likely use the clean topsoil here in St. Johns County?
Even if Nassau County accepts the offer, it remains to be seen if this will actually end three years of the city wrestling with how to handle the issue since there are those, like Slavin, still calling for the resignation of City Manager Bill Harriss — and others who Slavin feels have acted criminally.
Under this proposal, the city would spend an estimated $350,000.00 to recover the Old City Reservoir and monitor ground water at the Riberia Street site. The total estimated cost to the City of St. Augustine taxpayers to correct this incident is over $1 million.