MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Steven Johnson owns 30 acres of land on Foxtail Avenue in Middleburg. Flowers are blooming. The pond is full of fish. He had plans to build a house there, but not anymore.
"The whole property is contaminated," he said.
Four years ago, he says JEA gave him a ground covering called EZ Base to cap the dirt roads on his property. He said JEA gave him tons of it, for free. He said he didn't know until he got a visit from the Department of Environmental Protection that it could be dangerous.
He had his property tested. And he said the results came back showing dangerous levels of lead, chromium, and arsenic.
Johnson said, "I got a little baby. I can't run a risk of having her walk around in arsenic and playing in arsenic everyday. What kind of dad would I be? Especially when I know it's here."
Years of fighting with the JEA and the DEP was supposed to have ended last week, when JEA came out and removed the EZ Base. But Johnson's not satisfied. "There's no testing. How do I know it's clean? I still see the material here," he said.
Our search for answers brought us to City Hall in Jacksonville, where a city attorney told us its side of the story. He said the DEP did years of testing to make sure EZ Base was safe to use for road projects. Problem is, he said the property owner in Middleburg wasn't just using it for his roads.
Johnson responded to that by saying he used it on his roads, and rain spread it everywhere else, including the pond he used to irrigate his land.
We also checked with the DEP, which told us it too believes the land is safe. A DEP spokesman told us no further testing is planned for that property. And he said that neighbors need not worry. Based on testing of other EZ Base sites, the agency doesn't believe the material has contaminated the soil or groundwater.
Still, Johnson doesn't buy it. And his dreams of raising his family there are forever tainted. He said he's not sure what his next step will be. He said a lawsuit is possible, but he doesn't want it to go that far. The land is currently for sale.