Thousands of Florida homes sit on contaminated land, lawsuit claims

(WFLA Photo)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A lawsuit filed in federal court claims developers in Polk County failed to notify thousands of new homeowners that they are living on contaminated land.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of people who own property or live in the Oakbridge and Grasslands subdivisions in Lakeland. Joseph Jerue is the lone plaintiff in the complaint, which is seeking class action status.

Jerue is represented by the Lanier Law Firm out of Houston. The law firm is also working with firms Girardi Keese, Nidel & Nace, German Rubenstein and Lilly O’Toole & Brown.

The complaint claims that the developer of the property, the Drummond Company, knew about high radiation levels as early as 1978.

Grasslands is a premier golf community with upscale housing. Right next door is Lakeside Village, a major retail center.

The area used to be known as the Poseidon mine. It was purchased by the Drummond company in 1978. In 1982, Drummond ceased mining operations and began to reclaim the area and develop 1,400 acres.

The lawsuit claims, “No one, including Drummond…notified the plaintiff or class members of the significantly elevated cancer risks posed by the presence of radon gas…gamma radiation…or concerns raised by the federal EPA.”

It also asserts “In 1975 the EPA administrator informed the Governor of Florida that the EPA had found elevated levels of radiation in buildings constructed on land reclaimed from phosphate mining areas and recommended that construction of new buildings on phosphate mining lands be discouraged.”

According to the complaint, politicians and the phosphate mining industry worked to keep the lid on the EPA’s findings.

The document, filed last week in Tampa, states more than 40,000 homes sit on reclaimed phosphate mining land in Polk County.

Exposure to levels of radiation similar to that identified in the Oakbridge development translates to residents receiving over one chest x-ray per week.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for loss of property value, for clean-up and to initiate medical monitoring for residents.