eddie fort
BEACON PHOTO/MASTON MORWICK ‘BEEN THROUGH HELL AND BACK’ — Lifelong DeLand resident Eddie Fort stands in front of a once-buried fuel tank parked near his home on Lisbon Parkway. The huge tank was wrapped in plastic by an environmental official, apparently in an attempt to stop fumes from emanating from a hole in the tank. Despite attempts by Fort’s family to alert county and state environmental officials, however, that’s about all that’s been done. Fort said he has been hospitalized twice because of the effects of the diesel fumes. The water in his well has also turned yellow, his niece said, and he has been forced to buy bottled water for drinking and bathing. “I’ve been through hell and back,” Fort said.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is investigating possible water pollution from aging diesel tanks unearthed on DeLand’s southwest edge.

DeLand resident Eddie Fort said the trouble started for him when a workman tried to unearth and remove kerosene and petroleum storage tanks on property across the street from the Fort home on Lisbon Parkway on DeLand’s southwest side.

One of the tanks breached, spilling diesel fuel on the ground. The well water in Fort’s house has since turned yellow, his niece said.

Since that happened nearly three months ago, Fort and his family members have called county and state agencies and the fire department, but the tanks are still there, emitting fumes that Fort’s niece said sickened her 74-year-old uncle and resulted in him going to the hospital.

Environmental officials have been out to the property, and someone put yellow caution tape around the tanks, but the tanks are still there.

“We’ve been ping-ponging calls back and forth,” Fort’s nephew, Lonnie Wilson, said.

The family has been advised that Fort needs to abandon his well and connect his home to city water, but he cannot afford the $2,149 cost, the niece said.

“The only thing we can do is buy bottled water,” she said.

In response to The Beacon’s inquiry, FDEP Press Secretary Alexandra Kuchta said the state agency “will be taking formal enforcement in this matter.”

“DEP will hold the responsible party accountable by identifying necessary restoration and/or remediation actions, with the possibility of enforcement, including fines and penalties for associated violations,” Kuchta wrote in an email to The Beacon.

More information is supposed to be forthcoming.

The extent of the possible contamination, both in terms of wells affected and the number of people or households at risk of drawing or coming into contact with oil-tainted water, is not clear.

Volusia County Environmental Management was alerted about the situation May 2, according to county spokesman Gary Davidson.

“Pollution Control officers responded and also notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP),” Davidson wrote. “The county’s Solid Waste Division also has had some involvement, because one of the tanks needs to be moved out of the right-of-way.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County has also become involved. Agency spokeswoman Wendi Jackson said the staff “did send a letter to the property owner asking them to properly abandon the well at 801 W. Lisbon Parkway.”

That’s Fort’s address.

“Basically that means the property owner must ensure an abandoned well is properly ‘plugged’ to protect groundwater,” Jackson wrote. “That is the Florida Department of Health’s only involvement with this issue at this time. We have also noted that there are few wells in that area and most [people] would be on [DeLand] city water there.”

— Beacon intern Maston Morwick and publisher Barb Shepherd contributed to this story.



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