Investigates: ‘Trace amounts’ of toxic, heavy metals found near Bridgeport barge, DEP says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Locals are sick and tired of seeing the Bridgeport barge on the horizon. But it’s what’s spilling out of it that is of concern.

It came from a Puerto Rico power plant, and according to Jim Lawrence, a spokesperson for the recovery effort, it was carrying potentially up to 9,000 tons of Agremax, or coal ash waste.

In March the barge ran aground just outside the mouth of the St. Johns River. Then a storm in May caused the barge to spill some of the waste into the ocean.

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“We’re not too happy about it. We come out daily and go swimming here. Little one here, we gotta look for her in the future. She’s gotta have a pretty beach and a safe beach to go playing in,” Atlantic Beach resident Carl Barber said.

Barber takes his granddaughter swimming every day. He worries she’s being exposed to toxic waste.

Water sampling reports from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection show trace amounts of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, and mercury.

Russell Simpson with the Florida DEP told Action News Jax the findings “did not cause water quality violations,” adding that crews made measurements against the state’s water quality standards.

Lawrence said on Tuesday crews got the barge refloated and were waiting on the Coast Guard’s approval to tow it to port.

Action News Jax was at the site Wednesday and watched as crews ran a “test tow”, which Lawrence said is standard procedure to ensure everything runs smoothly. Lawrence said the official move to port is expected Friday.

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Meanwhile, locals like Barber say the barge should have been towed away much sooner.

“It shouldn’t be out there in the first place, it’s not our trash, it’s someone else’s trash,” he said.

You can stay up to date on the Bridgeport barge incident response web page here.