Alachua County Employees Say Biomass Plant Is Negatively Affecting Their Health
Published December 20th, 2013
ALACHUA COUNTY -- New complaints have emerged about Gainesville's new biomass plant.
Twenty affidavits obtained by TV20 show numerous Alachua County employees at the Public Works facility claim to be experiencing unhealthy side effects from so-called "fugitive dust" blowing over from the plant.
The documents -- which were all filed between September and November of this year -- contain numerous descriptions from employees who complain of eye and throat irritation, with some even claiming they now have to wear masks to work as a result of the dust.
A spokesman for the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center says workers at the biomass plant have made a couple of changes to the their wood fuel piles to help alleviate the problem, including not using the pile closest to the public works facility anytime the winds are high, as well as spraying the piles with water to make sure wood chips don't blow away.
While county officials acknowledge that GREC has made a few changes after first bringing the problem to their attention, they say the county will continue to monitor the situation very closely.
"We've been getting complaints from Public Works employees for months now," said Alachua County Communications Coordinator Mark Sexton. "I think in general the [Alachua County] commission feels like that's too long."
Sexton says county commissioners are expected to vote next month on whether to hire an outside company to conduct air quality studies at the public works facility. If approved, the county is prepared to spend as much as $80,000 on that study.
Despite the affidavits, Sexton says up to this point the county has not had to pay any claims of workers' compensation.
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