The Grasslands and Oakbridge neighborhoods were built on a reclaimed phosphate mine land that had dangerously high levels of radiation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allegedly confirmed through testing that residents have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation left over from the phosphate mine and that this exposure may lead to elevated cancer risks.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Phosphate Mining in Lakeland
The land that the communities were built on used to be known as the Poseidon phosphate mine. Phosphate mining results in the redistribution of radium-226, a radioactive contaminant of phosphate material. In the late 1970s, EPA scientists first warned that the area could pose a health threat, noting that the mining created elevated concentrations of radium in the area’s soil with radiation levels at 11 to 21 times higher than the acceptable risk limit. In addition, EPA scientists in the 1970s recommended that construction of new buildings or homes on land reclaimed from phosphate mines should be discouraged.
In their 2003 Florida Phosphate Initiative, officials from the EPA believed the potential problem at Oakbridge to be so bad that they considered it a candidate for emergency cleanup action; however, no corrective actions were taken and residents were again not adequately warned of the concerns.
The Development of Oakbridge and Grasslands Communities
Alabama-based mining corporation Drummond Company, Inc purchased the land in 1978. They continued to mine the Poseidon strip mine until 1982 when they ceased operations and reclaimed the land. The reclaimed 1,400 acres containing contaminated soil was developed into the Oakbridge and Grasslands neighborhoods. In addition, allegations note that they failed to adequately warn homeowners about the radiation after developing the homes.
How Can Phosphate Mining Contamination Cause Cancer?
Radium produces cancer-causing gamma rays. Gamma rays can penetrate the body and may significantly increase the risk of many cancers, including lymphoma, leukemia, thyroid, lung, and bladder. These cancers may take years to develop, although some cancers may develop sooner.
In addition, as radium decays, it creates radon. Radon is an odorless, radioactive gas that can increase the risk of lung cancer. Radon can seep into homes and accumulate, polluting the indoor air.
What Areas Are Affected?
Currently, the phosphate contamination affects residents of the Oakbridge and Grasslands neighborhoods, located in south Lakeland near Harden Boulevard and north of the Polk Parkway that was developed on the former Poseidon mine.
What is Phosphate Contamination?
Phosphate contamination, specifically soil contamination, is when harmful objects, chemicals or substances are introduced into the soil. During the phosphate mining process, radium-226, a radioactive contaminant of the phosphate material, is redistributed from buried deposits to the land surface.
How Can Phosphate Contamination Affect Health?
The radium that has been redistributed during the mining process emits gamma radiation, which may increase the risk of cancer. The radium eventually turns into Radon, which has also been identified as a carcinogen.
I Live in Grasslands/Oakbridge. What Should I Do?
If you are a homeowner (or previous homeowner) in the Grasslands or Oakbridge neighborhoods and are concerned about phosphate contamination, it is important to understand how this information may affect you and your loved ones. Speaking with a personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal rights.
How a Lakeland Phosphate Contamination Attorney May Help
At Burnetti, P.A., the attorneys in our Lakeland office have represented victims of negligence for over 20 years, resulting in numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients. The firm possesses the financial stability and experience to pursue maximum compensation and is ready and willing to take cases to trial. If you live in Oakbridge or Grasslands, you may be entitled to compensation for soil contamination. Contact a Lakeland phosphate contamination attorney at Burnetti, P.A. to learn more.