Lakeland homeowner has special reason to file lawsuit over possibly contaminated land

Jeff Gerue

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – We’re hearing directly from the homeowner at the center of a federal lawsuit that claims thousands of Lakeland homes are sitting on a toxic time bomb.

Jeff Jerue claims the developer didn’t bring in enough dirt to keep dangerous radiation from posing a threat.

“They built these houses in kind of a cancer incubator here,” said Jurue.

He loves his Oakbridge subdivision home. But, he fears what’s buried under his house and others in the nearby Grasslands neighborhood.

Both areas, and a nearby shopping center, used to be phosphate mines.

A lawsuit against developer, “Drummond Company” claims radiation from mining has contaminated the land.

“Not only did they build the houses here with gamma rays on it, that exposure, but they knew the land shouldn’t have built on it when they built the houses to begin with,” said Jerue.

A nearby condemned house teeters on huge holes, where the ground has given way.

Jurue said his house is also sinking in spots. He said it’s required constant repair.

Of more concern is the potential health risk. His wife, Laurie, died of liver cancer in 2012, just a year after being diagnosed. She enjoyed working with plants and soil.

“It does make you wonder. She was perfectly healthy. Dies at 56 years old,” he said.

Construction crews are still building in the Grasslands area. Jurue worries what new homeowners are being told.

“What should we do? Just sit here and be exposed to this stuff? And they all die of cancer? Or have problems we’re having because of this extensive amount of radiation that’s prevalent around this area?” he asked.

A radon test kit can give some piece of mind. But, there are 2,200 homes in this area that could be affected by the gas you can’t see or smell.

“I don’t know how you do it. You can’t come in here and claw all this stuff up and take out the dirt, the bad stuff and fill it back with good dirt,” said Jurue.

He tries to spend as little time as possible at his home, to avoid being exposed to radiation.

Nobody from Drummond Company returned our calls.

Read all the lawsuit documents here: Jerue v Drummond lawsuit phosphate contamination.

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