St. Cloud leaders halt collection of water runoff from controversial Puerto Rican coal ash

Video: Landfill owner Waste Connections says it has other places to take that leachate from that coal ash

ST. CLOUD, Fla. — State officials said they have no idea where water runoff from controversial coal ash from Puerto Rico will go now that St. Cloud leaders have decided to stop taking it in.

Landfill owner Waste Connections said it has other places to take that leachate from the J.E.D. Landfill in Osceola County, but the company won't say where.

This controversy all started more than two months ago when Osceola County leaders rushed approval to accept the coal ash at a privately owned landfill.

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Five weeks ago, on May 7, WFTV reporter Field Sutton started asking questions about how quickly that decision was made.

Just six days after that, some county leaders asked the landfill to voluntarily stop taking the truckloads of ash.

They've asked twice now, but the landfill said it will keep taking ash through Oct. 1.

Now that decision is trickling down to St. Cloud, where officials threatened to use police to stop deliveries.

No deliveries were seen being made Friday, which is a big deal considering around 15,000 gallons a day were rolling in as recently as Thursday.

WFTV’s Skywitness 9 flew over Friday as a lone truck filled up at what is believed to be the leachate storage pond.

It’s a large vat, filled with all the liquid draining out of your trash, which passes through millions of pounds of coal ash from around the state of Florida and from Puerto Rico.

The feds call it nonhazardous, even though it contains at least trace amounts of toxins like arsenic and mercury.

"It is not safe. It is dangerous,” said resident Mikala Wells. “And eventually, it's going to hit the leachate. It's going to hit our groundwater."

On Thursday night, the St. Cloud City Council got an earful from locals.

"The point is, often what gets us is what we don't know,” said resident Hughette Crumpler. “So what don't we know? We don't know how much it's going to rain. We don't know, if we have a hurricane, how much water's going to fill that area."

Current city leaders weren't even on the council that approved the decade-old contract to take the leachate at this water treatment plant, clean it and send it back out as reclaimed water.

They didn't approve shipping in millions of pounds of Puerto Rican coal ash, either.

Now they said they're balancing public health against a potential lawsuit from Waste Connections.

"Anybody can sue us for anything,” said Deputy mayor Linette Matheny. “But I’m willing to take the risk on this contract. We make $13,000 annually on this contract."

The city could be sued for considerably more than that.

Waste Connections said Friday it wants to be notified in writing about what city leaders believe it did to deserve being kicked out of the water treatment plant without notice.