I-TEAM: Environmental group levying fines for coal ash spill

9,300 tons of coal ash spilled into the ocean off the coast of Jacksonville

Environmental groups and now government entities are taking a stand against coal ash being transported off the coastline of Jacksonville

Environmental groups and now government entities are taking a stand against coal ash being transported off the coastline of Jacksonville. This comes after the Department of Environmental Protection announced it is levying fines against the companies responsible for spilling 9,300 tons of coal ash off the Bridgeport Barge into the ocean in the spring.

The News4JAX I-TEAM has been following the spill since March when the Bridgeport Barge hit the jetties and became stuck off the coast of Atlantic Beach. This caused a coal ash product called Agremax to spill into the ocean. The city of Atlantic Beach, the Jacksonville Waterways Commission and environmentalists are now trying to ban the offshore transport.

″There was never a public notification that went out or signs on the beach that said this is what’s going on and what’s happening, and that was a source of frustration for me,” said Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser.

Glasser is hoping to send a strong message to the manufacturers and transporters of coal ash who have been using the waters off the coast of Jacksonville to move their product. She wants the local transport of coal ash banned, after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced $38,000 in fines.

DEP is fining AES of Puerto Rico, the company which generated the ash; Morgan Towing, the owner of the barge that hit the jetties; and Dann Ocean Towing, whose barge was pulling the coal ash when it became stranded out at sea.

″Atlantic Beach does have a resolution that we are considering next week, to ask the powers that be not to be allowed to transport through our waters.” Glasser said. ”I hope it gets some attention. It may be symbolic in nature. A lot of it comes down to how it’s classified by the EPA.”

The Jacksonville Waterways Commission also recently approved a resolution calling for an end to coal ash shipments, pointing out that Puerto Rico and Osceola County have both banned the ash from being dumped in their landfills, even though the Agremax product is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as nonhazardous.

“I think the term hazardous, you have to keep that in context, it’s not classified as hazardous waste but it requires a lot of special controls in a landfill,” Glasser said. “Shouldn’t we have similar controls when it’s transported?”

Glasser said her city and surrounding coastal communities dodged a bullet because ocean water test results revealed there wasn’t any apparent environmental risk. She wants her coastal community to be cleaner and more responsible in the future.

″It is my belief that we must do something locally to push this question along. I think a point was made in the Jacksonville Waterways Commission and I think it’s a good one: Does Jacksonville really want to be engaged in moving coal ash? This is a messy business. JAXPort doesn’t deal in it. Should we?” Glasser said.

The Jacksonville Waterways Commission resolution was recently approved and will next go to the city council. The city of Atlantic Beach will discuss its resolution banning the transport of Agremax off the coastline later this week. Both resolutions are nonbinding, which means they cannot be adopted into law.


About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.