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DCPS Hopes to Sell Contaminated School

1:30 PM, May 1, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Duval County Public School system is looking to cash in on a school built on a toxic dump.

Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary on the Northside was closed more than a decade ago.

"If I wasn't in debt with my house, I wouldn't be here today," said Sam Smith, who lives on what was once known as Brown's Dump.

It's land off Moncrief contaminated with incinerator ash containing arsenic, lead and other harmful materials, according to the EPA.

Something Smith didn't know when he signed on the dotted line.

"They should have told me it was contaminated and I wouldn't have bought the house," Smith said.

Across the street is Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary, which closed in 2001 following protests about contamination in the area.

The school is now behind a fence that could soon hold a for sale sign.

"The ultimate goal would be for us to not own it anymore," said Doug Ayars, DCPS chief operating officer.

Ayars said if the school board votes the school "unsuitable for educational purposes" at Tuesday's meeting, they will look at future options.

"Maybe we could either get some money for it or find a use for it for the community," Ayars said.

This comes more than a decade after the school closed.

First Coast News spoke to three different school officials. No one could explain why it has taken this long for DCPS to declare the school unsuitable, other than the site being used by the EPA in recent years.

"The EPA was using the school as part of an integrated plan for the cleanup," Ayars said. "DCPS couldn't dispose of it until they were done."

"I would rather have something built over there because we have a lot of strangers, strange people walking up and down the neighborhood," Smith said.

Smith wants someone to buy it and clean it up, but said he wouldn't have bought his house if he'd known he'd be having his evening coffee on a toxic ash site.

He wonders who would buy the school next door.

First Coast News

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