DEP satisfied with RiverVue construction site environmental protections

DEP satisfied with RiverVue construction site environmental protections
Silt barriers erected around the perimeter of the RiverVue work site are intended to restrict the spread of any inadvertent spills into Fishweir Creek.

Fairfax Manor residents concerned about silt discharges in Fishweir Creek enlisted the help of the St. Johns Riverkeeper to look into a July 4 incident which they believe came from the construction site at RiverVue, where a 228-unit apartment community is being erected.

“You can see white/cream runoff from buildings across creek during July 4th. The turbidity screens don’t seem to be working lately,” said Art Small in an email to neighbor Stephanie Freeman. “Notice the line of sand almost spans the entire creek. My son took these from our dock. Don’t know what we can do, but the problems in creek are not helped by more effluent.” 

A week later, the Woodmere Avenue property owners shared with the Riverkeeper photos of what appeared to be turbidity occurring in Fishweir Creek on the mid-
summer holiday, asking for a contact to address the issue.

On July 12, Jimmy Orth, executive director for the St. Johns Riverkeeper, asked the City of Jacksonville’s environmental specialists in charge of illicit discharge, detection and elimination to investigate the incident.

Nick Duin, a City environmental specialist, went to the site on St. Johns Avenue in Avondale and spoke with the construction superintendent on July 13. “It was found that the ‘white/cream runoff from buildings across creek’ was from a cement blockage that discharged into Fishweir Creek. The superintendent had the issue corrected immediately upon notification of the discharge. During my inspection today, Fishweir Creek was free of any offsite impacts,” he said in an email response to Orth.

Upon further questioning by Shannon Blankinship, Riverkeeper advocacy director, Duin provided more information, stating, “The construction ongoing on the tower at the southeast corner of the project was conducting concrete work on the third floor. They were using a cement pump truck, via cement hose, and the hose clogged up. When the workers went to remove the clog, the cup-link broke off and the pressure in the hose discharged a small amount of cement into Fishweir Creek. When cement reacts with water, it is similar to that of gasoline in that, even a small amount may create a very large sheen; this was the case here. The contractors stated it was no larger of an amount than a shovel full.”

Since the silting incident occurred on July 4, when no workers were on site, the cement discharge incident appeared to be independent and later than the turbidity issue on the holiday. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection was asked to meet with the Woodmere residents to discuss the incidents.

On Aug. 8, Russell Simpson, FDEP Ombudsman, Jim Maher, FDEP Assistant Director, Compliance Assurance, Heather Webber, environmental administrator and Sally Logan subject matter expert, met with Blankinship, Small and Freeman to review the July 4 incident.

Within a week of the Aug. 8 meeting, Logan and Maher met with Duin on the RiverVue construction site to review the project. “They felt totally assured he is looking at EPD and COJ requirements as well as best management practices,” said Simpson. “He is doing a good job making sure the contractors are doing what they should be doing.” Instead of visiting the site monthly as required, Duin stops by on a weekly basis to ensure compliance. “There are no substantial issues at this point,” Simpson said.

“We did not see anything regarding silting while we were there,” said Logan, explaining that not every incident is reportable.

“There is no reason to think we should not be pleased with their efforts,” said Simpson, “but we are very happy to review any concerns that residents have and to follow up with Nick.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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