The state of Florida is signing off on the environmental cleanup at Big Bend Cares new health care facility, which is being built on the site of an old auto shop.
The Department of Environmental Protection told Big Bend Cares in a letter last week it plans to issue a site rehabilitation completion order, signaling completion of the cleanup at Care Point Health and Wellness Center. The $11 million facility, which is under construction on South Monroe Street, is set to open in September.
The project came into the crosshairs of Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor, who held a news conference with local activist Dr. Ed Holifield in February to blast the environmental cleanup. They asked State Attorney Jack Campbell to investigate, but he passed, saying his general counsel reviewed the matter and found no cause for an investigation.
Rob Renzi, executive director of Big Bend Cares, calls the letter from DEP “complete vindication.” He says the nonprofit went “above and beyond” remediation requirements and noted the cleanup was completed with guidance from DEP and was completed well before Proctor’s press conference.
Last year, Holifield contacted DEP after reading an environmental report showing benzo(a)pyrene and arsenic in the soil at levels above commercial limits but below residential limits. DEP then ordered Big Bend Cares to conduct a site assessment. Their environmental consultant responded with a report in March saying there was no evidence impacted groundwater and soils need further assessment, remedial action or monitoring.
Proctor questioned the report, however, in a statement sent to the press Monday.
“Only God and Mother Nature truly know how right or wrong the findings of the (consultant) may affect our ecology and the human population,” he wrote. “I hope that God will protect the FAMU students and communities that surround this site including the future patrons that will breathe the air around this site.”
Renzi called Proctor’s comments “inflammatory and slanderous.” He said the District 1 commissioner “has no experience or knowledge” about environmental cleanups.
“The reputation of both Big Bend Cares and the builder, PSBI, were besmirched by these accusations and they deserve to be restored,” Renzi said in an email to the Democrat.
Holifield has lobbed public criticism at Care Point, saying it won’t treat poor and uninsured patients once it opens. But Renzi has denied that accusation, pointing out that Care Point is required to treat the uninsured as part of its agreement with the Community Redevelopment Agency.
“Care Point construction remains on schedule in a safe and clean building site and will provide underserved residents of the south side with access to services, something that the county commissioner in that district should be supportive of,” Renzi said.