Direct action gets in motion in Ichetucknee cement kiln fight
Ryan Brouillard
September 2000

Tallahassee--Five activists with Ichetucknee Earth First! locked down for five hours in the entrance to Gov. Jeb Bush's office on August 29 at 8:45 a.m. to demand that he revoke the permits that the state granted to a subsidiary of Anderson Columbia Co. to build a cement kiln 3.5 miles from the pristine Ichetucknee River.

The group gave a list of demands to Bush's staff:
--To meet with Gov. bush and DEP Secretary Struhs with the media present
--To revoke Anderson Columbia permits until;
a) an Environmental Impact Statement has been done
b) A statewide referendum is held to let the people decide
c) A complete cleanup of all polluted Anderson Columbia sites

For the next 5 hours, connected by the bicycle locks around their necks, the group sat in the doorway to the press room and answered questions from the media that had shown up for a press conference for Bush's One Florida plan to eliminate affirmative action. After the media interviewed members of the lockdown, they proceeded in and asked Bush about rumors of scandal, complaints and environmental concerns involved in the cement plant and land use deal. At about 10:30, Struhs came to talk to the group. After he found himself being bombarded by questions about scandal and lack of protection by the state in front of about 25 media outlets, he asked them for a private interview away from the EarthFirst! lock-down.

Outside the capitol-building members of Sierra Club, Florida Green Party, Ichetucknee Mobilization, UF Environmental Action Group and Student Peace Action and many Tallahassee high school students protested on the streets with huge puppets and signs. One protester scaled a telephone pole and dropped a banner that read, "No Permits to Polluters!"

Anderson Columbia Co. and its subsidiaries are notorious for noncompliance with environmental laws and have racked up 17 violations for dumping in waterways, soil contamination, air pollution, operating without permits, etc.

The Ichetucknee River is a spring fed, crystal clear waterway situated between wetlands of old and secondary growths cypress. The river is a refreshing 72 degrees year round and is one of Florida's cleanest rivers and listed as an outstanding river system. There are three endangered species--the rare silt snail, the red-eye blind crayfish and the Florida manatee--which live within a few miles of the kiln site, which was designated in original county land use plans for agriculture, not industry. Suwannee American Co. was granted a special permit by the Suwannee County Commission earlier this summer.

As clean as this river is, there are already alarming amounts of mercury present. Also, there are currently warnings on fish caught in the two rivers which the Ichetucknee flows into--the Santa Fe and Suwannee--because of methyl mercury poisoning due to consumption.

The cement kiln, which had its groundbreaking ceremony on August 28, will emit dangerous levels of mercury, phosphates, particulates and dioxins after burning tires to make portland cement.

Ichetucknee Earth First! wanted to make people aware of several facts about this issue. Points of concern are:

People who oppose the cement kiln hold Gov. Bush responsible, because after he canoed down the river with DEP Secretary Struhs last year, he vowed to save the river and not grant permits, due to Anderson Columbia's history of environmental carelessness. A few months later, after the company sued the state and donated $1 million of road paving services to the county and $175,000 to the Republican Party, Bush reversed his decision and allowed the Suwannee County and DEP to grant permits.

Another point of concern is another cement kiln approved two years ago by the Alachua County Commission for Florida Rock Inc., which has been operating now for about 7 months. This was the first cement kiln to be approved in the United States in 15 years due to environmental concerns. Florida Rock has since violated testing regulations for water quality after failing to do or allow for a base line water sample when the site began operation. Recently Florida Rock Inc. blocked access to the Florida DEP and other state and county officials to do the mandatory, on-site testing.

Environmentalists opposed to the Suwannee American cement kiln question how the state can ensure the safety of the Ichetucknee and life-forms if it cannot properly monitor an existing one.

After five hours of being locked together, it was apparent that Bush was not going to appear to talk to the group. They agreed to unlock and attend an open meeting with the DEP to discuss a possible court action or statewide referendum to block the construction. Police made no arrests.

For further information on this issue, check out: and or E-mail

No Compromise in Defense of the Ichetucknee River. Earth First!

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