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Gun Club lead contamination still an issue for St. Pete

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete residents near Sawgrass Lake are infuriated with the city for not following through with ensuring the Skyway Trap and Skeet Club cleans up lead spilling into the ground and lake near its property.

During public comment at a meeting Thursday, concerned residents bombarded City Council with videos showing past meetings in which staff told council contaminated land and water had been cleaned up. The city now knows that is not the case after WTSP investigative reporter Mike Deeson reported lead levels in water there were dangerously high.

His report even uncovered school children testing the water without safety precautions as part of a school project.

The issues goes back to 2010 when the Southwest Florida Water Management District found “incredibly high levels of lead contamination in the soil and the lake itself.”

According to Deeson, SWFWMD spent $25 million of taxpayer money to remove nearly 500 tons of lead from the park. The gun club agreed to spend $2 million to clean up its property and create a barrier to thwart future contamination. That, it seems, has not happened.

The handful of speakers at City Council lamented that the city’s inaction on the matter is putting young children at risk to lead exposure. The comments made were inflammatory toward current and past staff who speakers argued lied to City Council about the problem.

However, Council chair Charlie Gerdes pointed out the misinformation was simply a misunderstanding and promised council would deal with it.

“It doesn’t help when people who have admitted there was some confusion or inaccuracy in a contextual communication,” Gerdes said after thanking the speakers for their diligence. “To use the word liar to me does not help. We’re with you. We get it. We want to make this right. But let’s do it in a positive, constructive trajectory.”

Gerdes said council would be taking steps to address the issue in the next couple of weeks.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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