Dozens protest dumping of Puerto Rico coal ash at Osceola County landfill

Protests come more than a month and a half after Osceola County commissioners voted to accept Puerto Rico coal ash

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Dozens of protesters gathered Friday afternoon outside a private landfill in Osceola County where coal ash from Puerto Rico’s power plants is being dumped.

The Osceola County Board of County Commissioners in April approved a deal with the JED Landfill near Holopaw to accept as many as 650 million pounds of ash.

Commissioners on Wednesday sent a letter to the landfill, asking it to voluntarily stop accepting the ash.

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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said the dumping is safe, legal and regulated and that the landfill has the proper permits and licenses to dispose of the ash, but demonstrators said they remain concerned about their health.

"This is my community, and these are my children," protester Ronda Roseman said. "(In the morning), you come out on my porch and you can smell the dump. So, if I smell that dump and that trash, that ash is in the air, too."

Some demonstrators said the last-minute decision to approve the dumping was made by underinformed commissioners at the urging of the county manager.

Protester Frank Rivera said the dumping of ash has been controversial in Puerto Rico, too.

"This struggle has been carried out in Puerto Rico for many years," he said. "Now, the struggle has come over here, and we're going to continue fighting over here."

Residents said they plan to attend Monday's commission meeting to call for the county manager's resignation. His spokesman declined to comment on the push.