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'A toxic mess': former Solite employee says Clay County concrete plant caused lifetime of health problems

A Clay County man says many medical problems resulted from his work at an old concrete plant that property owners want to develop.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — A Clay County man says a lifetime of medical problems resulted from his work at an old concrete plant.

Before closing abruptly in the 1990s, the old Solite plant burned hazardous waste and materials to create concrete aggregate. New documents show the property owners want to clean the site so it can be developed for commercial use.

Ben Mitts worked briefly at the plant as a kiln operator.

“Contaminated oils, jet fuels, gasoline [were pumped through sprayers]," he told First Coast News. "Quite frequently, the sprayers would get clogged. We’d have to shut down and break the kiln open. You would get covered with PCV contaminated oil with no protective gear."

Scars on his arms still remain from the exposure. Doctors told him he had arsenic poisoning and PCV contamination. He also says the walls of his large intestine thinned. Mitts had half of the intestine removed. Doctors could never figure out why.

He says his daughter was also born with a rare form of cancer and lost her eye. 

Mitts says the plant would bend the rules to burn hazardous waste as fuel.

“There were air quality monitors on the perimeter of the property," he recalled. "At night-time, they’d go around and cover them. At night, we’d run plumes of black smoke for hours.” 

Decades after the plant shut down, the property still hasn’t been cleaned.

New documents show that Golder Associates, working alongside Stoneridge Farms, formerly Solite, submitted a revised plan to study the 900-acre property for contaminants and how to clean them up. We reached out to Golder Associates for more details about the clean-up plan and what they plan to do after. We have not heard back.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says it is supervising any cleanup of the site.

Mitts thinks any possible development of the land is another major health risk.

“We can’t force them to clean it up, but what we can do is not reward them for victimizing the county for all those years and let them profit off of it afterward,” Mitts said.

At Tuesday’s Clay County Board of County Commissioners meeting, the county attorney says there are no applications to develop the property.