Hillsborough County commissioner to hold town hall for community around lead smelter

The meeting will be held at Kenly Park and include information on the neurotoxin.
An aerial view of the Gopher Resource on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in Tampa.
An aerial view of the Gopher Resource on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published April 20, 2021|Updated April 20, 2021

Hillsborough County Commissioner Gwen Myers is holding a town hall Wednesday evening at Kenly Park to provide information about lead exposure to the community around Gopher Resource, an east Tampa lead smelter.

The meeting will include information about possible health effects from lead exposure and gauge whether there is interest for health officials to conduct blood-lead testing among children who live near Gopher, Myers said. The commissioner said she hopes residents of neighborhoods around the plant, located at 6505 E. Jewel Ave., along with workers and their family members will attend.

The meeting was prompted by a two-part series in the Tampa Bay Times that outlined a pattern of dangerous working conditions inside the factory.

Related: Hundreds of workers at a Tampa lead smelter have been exposed to dangerous levels of the neurotoxin.

The newsroom’s investigation also spurred two members of Congress to call on federal regulators to conduct an inspection of the plant and to evaluate whether concerns about lead exposure extend to the broader community.

The neighborhoods around the factory include Grant Park, Oak Park, Florence Villa, Dixie Farms and Uceta Gardens. Gopher, which recycles lead from used car batteries, is a half-mile from Kenly Elementary School.

The Minnesota-based company has owned the plant since 2006, but the factory has been in the community for about six decades.

Speakers at Wednesday’s meeting will include Myers; the outreach director for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa; Tampa City Councilman Orlando Gudes; Hillsborough County School Board Member Henry “Shake” Washington and representatives from the Florida Department of Health and Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Kenly Park is located at 3101 N. 66th St., in Tampa.