Environmental group worried about Lee County incinerator failing inspection

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Lee County Waste-to-Energy facility is off Buckingham Road in Fort Myers. The incinerator is hard at work daily, turning tons of trash into ash.
The plant works on controlling pollution and is the first in the country to use a permanent activated carbon injection system to limit mercury emissions.

The Calusa Group, a local chapter of the Sierra Club, is an environmentalist group in the county. It’s members say the incinerator at the plant presents an issue.

“We know that the impacts of mercury on human health are extreme,” Marsha Ellis, a member of the group said.

According to the World Health Organization, developing a disregulated nervous systems, reduced kidney function, brain damage in fetuses and babies, are all issues connected with mercury inhalation and consumption.

The Environmental Protection Agency says mercury is released as trash burns. The EPA has passed rules to limit public incinerators that burn sewage and eliminates all emissions from medical waste incinerators.

“We had a documented violation at the Buckingham Resource Recovery facility,” Ellis said.

The Calusa Group learned about an incinerator malfunction through a Lee County commissioners consent agenda.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Agency inspection revealed a malfunction in the soot blower system at the facility. This created a build up of fly ash, containing pollutants. A retest was held in April 2023. February 16, 2024, spokesperson for Lee County said Lee County Solid Waste has successfully passed its emission tests, per FDEP.

Clifford T. Mitchem is the group chair for the Calusa Group and he says the organization’s main ask is transparency.

“If the system is not functioning, we need to know that it’s not functioning, we need the people who are running these facilities, to keep us updated on it,” he said.

He and Ellis say people who live nearby should get a notice when the incinerator is malfunctioning and another notice once it’s fixed.

“The right to know is something that we can ask as the public by participating in the rule making,” Ellis said, while explaining people can submit a public comment to legislators.

That can be done by entering the links in the story into a browser or contacting the group for further assistance:

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