Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Today’s post is an update to an ongoing story of environmental injustice.
Fairway Oaks residents have been fighting a legal battle against Habitat for Humanity – Jacksonville (HabiJax) and the city of Jacksonvile for more than a decade.
In December, in response the City’s request to dismiss the case, Duvall County Judge Karen Cole ruled that a class action lawsuit brought by homeowners could move forward.
The lawsuit claims that Fairway Oaks is built upon a former garbage dump, and that homes began to sink into the soil within a few years after construction. Landfill debris and methane gases have been found in the soil beneath and surrounding the homes. Damages to homeowners include structural cracks in foundations, settling of homes, seepage of toxins and pests into the homes, and adverse health effects to residents due to exposure to environmental toxins.
According to a News Jax 4 report, Judge Cole disclosed that she volunteered with HabiJax in 2000 — hanging siding on Fairway Oaks homes when they were constructed. Nevertheless, attorneys for both Plaintiffs and Defendants say they are not concerned about a conflict of interest.
The Fairway Oaks homeowners association continues its organized effort to fight for their rights. They want HabiJax and the City Housing Authority to release homeowners from their mortgage obligations and rehouse residents in safe dwellings.
The legal battle is likely to drag on for several more years.
In the meantime, homeowners recently learned that soil adjacent to their community contains high levels of arsenic. According to two recent News Jax 4 reports, the city is in the process of excavating soil and “leveling off the land” in the area of contamination.
The city says a temporary fence has been installed to contain arsenic dust from the work site. But homeowners are not confident that their children, who must walk on the sidewalk directly next to the fence, will not be exposed to additional toxins.
The ongoing saga is an example of what can go wrong when local governments allow new home construction on questionable brownfield sites, parcels of land that were once exposed to various environmental toxins and hazards.
Although brownfield parcels are less costly to purchase, developers are theoretically obligated to clean up contaminants from the site, preferably by excavation and backfill with “clean” soil.
In practice, however, complete remediation efforts (full removal of contamination and hazards) is not accomplished. In some cases, contaminates are “capped” by covering the area with asphalt or concrete barriers.
However, when hard surfaces covering contaminated soils break down or fail, residents can be exposed to seepage of visible or invisible toxins that rise to the surface.
The process of breakdown of concrete and asphalt is accelearted if the site is not properly backfilled or graded with stable soil.
Unstable soil leads to difficulties creating long-lasting, solid home foundation systems.
The end result for homeowners in housing communities such as Fairway Oaks: homeownership becomes unaffordable, and potentially hazardous to their health.
Answers sought after toxins found in soil of NW Jacksonville neighborhood
Residents rally after workers fenced in area
By Josh Williams – Producer
Posted: 10:05 PM, March 17, 2018
Updated: 11:36 PM, March 17, 2018
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Community members are demanding answers from the city after toxins were found in the soil of their Northwest Jacksonville neighborhood.
News4Jax has covered the story of residents at Fairway Oaks fighting to get repairs to what they call poorly-built homes. The community was built by the city and Habitat for Humanity on top of a former city dump.
Complaints include cracked stabs, sinking, mold and termites.
On Saturday, those living in the area rallied after workers placed a fence around an area they said contains higher-than-normal levels of arsenic.
Read more (Video):
Neighbors rally over environmental worries from old Northwest Jacksonville dump
Steve Patterson, The Florida Times-Union
Posted Mar 17, 2018 at 7:04 PM
Updated Mar 17, 2018 at 7:30 PM
People living around a former dumpsite in Northwest Jacksonville rallied Saturday to show frustration with a lack of explanation by city officials about apparent preparations to remediate decades-old pollution.
“We need justice. Is this justice that they’re doing to us now?” Nathaniel Borden, president of the Fairway Oaks Homeowners’ Association of Jacksonville, asked about 20 neighbors who shouted “No!”
The gathering on Golfbrook Drive off West 45th Street was organized after city workers set up temporary barriers of plastic sheeting along the road that is the only route in and out of Fairway Oaks.
Borden said city offices had not explained what’s being planned, and that it mattered because earlier tests had shown elevated arsenic levels in soil in the fenced area.
He said scores of children, maybe more than 100, routinely walk past the barriers, and there’s a concern about children’s safety if arsenic-laced soil is dug up and blown by the wind.
Class-action lawsuit over Fairway Oaks to continue
Residents of HabiJax homes complain of cracked foundations, rust, mold