Polk homeowners express fear, others disbelief over contamination lawsuit

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) –  Uncertainty now surrounds two upscale subdivisions in Lakeland following the filing of a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of people who own property or live in the Oakbridge and Grasslands subdivisions in Lakeland.

Grasslands is a premier golf community with upscale housing.

Right next door is Lakeside Village, a major retail center.

Across Harden Boulevard sits the Oakbridge community.

The lawsuit claims developers in Polk County failed to notify thousands of new homeowners that they are living on contaminated land.

“I think it’s very scary. My first thought is, ‘please let it be a prank and the lawyers just want to make money.’ The second thought is, ‘it’s a health issue for me.’ This is very scary to me,” homeowner Bertie Volpe said.

Volpe bought her home in the Grasslands community in 2009, and claims she was never notified of the potential of high radiation levels.

“I was told a dump, that this was a dump at one point,” Volpe said.

Other homeowners had similar concerns.

“My concern now hearing this is health, of course, and the value of my home, of course,” Patricia Fink said.

Another homeowner who did not want to be identified showed News Channel 8 the Radon testing kit he purchased Wednesday so he could test his home.

Others News Channel 8 spoke with said they have no concerns at all.

Some cited connections to the phosphate industry.

Others said they needed more information,and did not want to feed hysteria for fear their property values would decrease.


The complaint claims that the developer of the property, the Drummond Company, knew about high radiation levels as early as 1978.

The area used to be known as the Poseidon mine.  It was purchased by the Drummond company in 1978.  In 1982, Drummond ceased mining operations and began to reclaim the area and develop 1,400 acres.

The document, filed last week in Tampa, states more than 40,000 homes sit on reclaimed phosphate mining land in Polk County.

Exposure to levels of radiation similar to that identified in the Oakbridge development translates to residents receiving over one chest x-ray per week.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for loss of property value, for clean-up and to initiate medical monitoring for residents.


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