It has come to my attention that The Wingate Superfund Site located at NW 13th Street and 31st Ave. in Fort Lauderdale will shortly be home to a movie studio. I was the Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc. attorney who sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the City of Fort Lauderdale, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development (HUD), Geosyntec et al., for the totally inadequate high-density polyethylene (HDPE) liner they approved to cover this most hazardous landfill. I was the attorney on the project to challenge the remediation of the horrible toxic landfill and we filed three lawsuits lasting numerous years.

Leola McCoy, of the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) and I took on the battle which was fraught with politics from the most unlikely bedfellows. Everywhere we turned, we were met with lies about how bad the toxicity of the superfund site was. Rock Pit Lake and Lake Stupid contained toxic fish. Our toxicologist tested the area and found out it contained the most poisonous of toxins. Wingate’s incinerator blew 470 tons of toxins 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No time off for the holidays. When we confronted the city they hired their own toxicologist who got paid a lot of money and said “no problem here.”

We made numerous efforts to get a liner to cover the 65 acres that were scientifically tested. The city and Geosyntec, along with Waste Management, instead accepted a liner that was grossly inadequate. The city did nothing because it was afraid of liability. We even tried to get Florida’s Legislature way back in 2003, to apply their stricter standards through a bill submitted by Rep. Chris Smith. But as soon as we got the bill processed, the Tallahassee lobbyists for the city, Geosyntec and Waste Management prevented the bill from passing. And The EPA’s lesser standards were applied. Now I hear about this movie studio, and I do not see evidence that the current liner is intact. Why is this important? Because while working day and night with Leola McCoy on the cases, I was given portions of the HDPE liner. When I retired, I found them in my file cabinet, and they were completely broken into pieces. In fact, they broke apart in my hands.

So many people died of cancer because of that site; so many. The dioxins leached into adjacent properties. If a newer and better liner that did not crack had been utilized back then, a movie studio or anything else could have been built on that poisonous site safely. But the city and EPA and the other parties mentioned above did not ensure that the best liner would be placed on that toxic dump. Politics and big money ruled the day.

Now it is up to you the community to make sure a proper liner is laid. To do otherwise is to hurt your children and children’s children. Remember, the cancer took 20 years to get to the people and cause death and destruction.

In addition, when they start building the movie studio, how are they going to keep the particles from blowing onto your properties? Don’t take their word for anything. Fight for yourself and your families. If you descend on the new owners and the city and make your voices known, then you might be able to stop the continuing toxins from affecting your health now and in the future.

Legal Aid Service of Broward County did all we could do. It now comes down to all of you living in the 33311 zip code. Descend on City Hall and make your voices heard or else you will continue to suffer.

I now am retired from Legal Aid. I worked with wonderful people such as Frank and Audrey Peterman, Elgin Jones, Leola McCoy and her daughters, others too many to mention. God bless all of you. Please fight to ensure the proper procedures are used. Call in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also. Call or write to your commissioners and go to City Hall meetings. Get on the agenda. Write to the governor. Your beautiful lives depend on it.

Sharon Bourassa, 

Attorney at law (retired)