Huge Concrete Dust Bags Rupture at Port

By Mike Lednovich



Residents of the historic downtown neighborhood near the Port of Fernandina were stunned Monday morning when they saw huge white sacks spilling cement powder as they were being lifted and stacked into piles.

By Thursday, work crews with Savage Services, the operators of the port, were still dealing with the cleanup of what neighbors reported were 10 to 12 2,000-pound cement bags that had been leaking cement after being off loaded and stacked onto the port grounds.

“This is a trial run of the port handling break bulk cement,” said David Kaufman, executive director of the Port of Fernandina. “Several cement bags broke open during the process of off loading. The port is taking every precaution to make sure the cement does not get onto streets, the river, the wetlands, or the storm system.”

Kaufman said hay bales and boom socks had been placed around storm drains to prevent any of the spilled cement powder from getting into the city’s stormwater system.

He said the Florida Department of Environmental Services had been notified of the situation and “they were pleased on how the port was handling the situation.

They’re coming out again today or tomorrow to follow up,” he said.

Kyle Clark, Savage’s general manager of operations at the port, would not comment about the cement spillage and referred the Observer to Savage’s media director Jeff Hymas in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Hymas said approximately 16,000 tons of bagged, dry cement is currently being stored at the port, with approximately 1.5 tons (3,000 pounds) of dry cement in each bag.

“In about six to eight weeks, another vessel will come to replenish inventory. No special permits are required for storing cement at the port,” Hymas said. “We are not aware of any bags bursting. Some bags have small holes from shipping and handling, which are promptly repaired and any residual material is cleaned up. Residual material, although not hazardous, is promptly cleaned using brooms and vacuums.”

Hymas said all port storm drains are protected, and vacuum street sweepers are being used to mechanically assist with daily cleanup. The small amount of damaged bags will be sent to the landfill. There are no special disposal requirements.

“FDEP is aware of the concrete bags unloaded and stored on site and OHPA is also aware,” Hymas said. “We have SH&E professionals on our team including certified safety professionals, certified industrial hygienists, and an in-house environmental team to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible handling of this material.”

Historic downtown homeowner Tammi Kosack, who lives one block from the port’s east boundary, said she became aware of the port’s effort to import cement at the Ocean Highway Port Authority’s open house last week to review its proposed master plan.

“Mr. Gilbert told me about these big cement bags that would be off loaded and stacked at the port. He said they would be protected with a tarp and that there was an off chance that a bag could possibly break. That was a big red flag to me,” she said.

Gary Klopp, who lives three blocks from the port, said that within the first two hours of off loading Monday morning, neighbors became aware that several cement bags had burst, spilling cement powder. By that afternoon, Klopp said he estimated about eight or more of the enormous cement sacks had been damaged and were leaking cement, based on photos he had taken.

Kosack said, “They were stacking these 5-foot high bags along the fence and the dust was everywhere, all over the ground, the equipment. It was all over the workers, they were covered with it.”

According the OSHA’s website regarding workers handling cement silica dust, employers must assess employee exposures to silica; protect workers from silica exposures over an 8-hour day; limit workers’ access to areas where they could be exposed; use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures and provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL; keep records of exposure measurements, objective data, and medical exams.

Neighbors became more concerned today when the port began to use street-sweeper machines to clean up the powder.

“The sweeper created a huge cloud of cement dust that blew out of the port right across the front of my house,” Klopp said. “As an outsider this looks like the port had no plan in place to handle this type of accident. It’s like they’re just trying one thing after another.”

The cement powder became more problematic according to Kosack because of moisture from early morning fog that ensued during the week.

“It’s harder to clean up when it’s wet,” she said. “We’re lucky the wind wasn’t blowing out of the north because that cement dust would have been all over our neighborhood.”

Klopp was also concerned about the possibility of runoff into the wetlands and natural habitat in the event of rain.

“This is a powder, they’re not going to get it all up 100 percent. If it rains, it’s going to be contaminated runoff into some very sensitive wetlands,” he said.

The cement spills comes just days before OHPA is scheduled to make a presentation of its new master plan before the Fernandina Beach City Commission on Tuesday.

“I know we have to get along with the port. But to bring this cement material into this area, this neighborhood and so close to downtown is wrong. You know people are breathing in small particles of this stuff right now,” Klopp said.

Hymas said Savage Services believes the port and the surrounding areas can co-exist without conflict.

“We are committed to being a good neighbor, being transparent and operating safely at the port,” Hymas said.

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Terry Grady
Terry Grady (@guest_67019)
1 year ago

Citizens need to WAKE UP and STAND UP against what OHPA has planned for this town! Shame on those city commissioners and manager that allow this. This was just a small incident. Wait until the port really gets to their goal. Write the commissioners and show up at the meetings! Write to OHSA, FDEP as well! Health of the citizens, workers, and environment are at stake. The only thing OHPA is “committed to” is lining their pockets at the expense of this island.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack(@tammi-kosack)
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Grady

Terry, two divisions of FDEP have been notified. And unfortunately OSHA will only handle complaints made by employees.

It begs the question if the employees have been educated on the risks associated to the cement dust exposure and if PPE should be standard operating procedure to protect their health, as well as those they bring their cement dust covered clothes in contact with.

Tuesday night at 6, OHPA presents their plan to the city commission.

Wednesday night at 6, at the FB Police Dept. is the next OHPA meeting. Show up and speak up.

Noble Member
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Grady

It’s not the city commissioners, manager, or even county commissioners. The OHPA has its own commissioners who are elected independent of the county or city. We vote them in, but most voters don’t pay attention to who they are voting for!

bob (@guest_67026)
1 year ago

I saw some photos of the cleanup efforts. The dust clouds were huge and the wind blew the concrete dust into the neighboring areas. What a mess. This sort of spill simply cannot be limited to the port work area, sadly.

Margaret Kirkland
Margaret Kirkland(@kirkland-mrk)
1 year ago

It is extremely concerning that the port has already implemented items under consideration in its master plan, which is still under consideration. It is obvious that the port has not done sufficient research on the health and environmental impacts of the activities it is considering and does not have the expertise to assess these plans thoroughly. Port workers need to be aware of the dangers of the work they are doing without appropriate gear.

John Findlay
John Findlay(@jfindlay)
1 year ago

It does not sound as if adequate plans are in place to protect against spillage of cement powder and dust.

Kates Robinson
Kates Robinson (@guest_67039)
1 year ago

This is very alarming! It makes it very apparent that the port is not prepared to handle such materials and it is definitely not worth putting employees and residents at risk.

1 year ago

Silicosis (the name of the disease associated with inhaling silica dust) results in permanent lung damage. It is a progressive, debilitating, and sometimes fatal disease. This activity does not belong at our port. Period. Full stop.

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet (@guest_67050)
1 year ago

Hummmmm concrete dust?

Stay tuned as at the rate we’ve progressed in the past ten years most of Amelia Island will be solid concrete….hey no dust! Remember the drive from I-95 to the island back before 2009 and the last “boom”? Green on two sides of a two lane road…….now 6 lanes with two turning lanes….all concrete out in Yulee and strip malls on both sides. What’s the matter? Isn’t this the new face of progress, prosperity and the pursuit of property 2023 style? A take off on the olde Amerikan dream Life, Liberty and the Persuit of Property no?

Just like you should have learned a few weeks back with the RV “park”, your comments are, “irrelevant, please stick to the script”. Oh and please do get your checkbook in hand to pay for all this progress.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_67053)
1 year ago
Bill (@guest_67055)
1 year ago

Where did these bags originate? and what exactly is the chemical composition of their contents?

Noble Member
1 year ago

It’s my understanding that citizenry is not allowed to vote on OHPA activities (e.g., what materials pass through the port, cruise ships, etc.). Down in the Keys, voters tried to limit cruise ships size and lost. The only people who have any control over what happens at the port are the OHPA commissioners. We can vote for the Commissioners. In the past perhaps we haven’t paid sufficient attention to those elections. In the future we need to demand to hear candidate positions on port usage.

Sandra Lerch
Sandra Lerch (@guest_67062)
1 year ago

And why was Martin re-hired? Part of the good olé boys. And with new republicans as commissioners, everything will surely be a bigger mess than this. Disgusted with Amelia Island!

Bill Fold
Bill Fold(@bill-fold)
1 year ago

Sadly this incompetence will continue until something really hazardous happens. For example:the OHPA wants to store fertilizer near downtown Fernandina. Think the disaster that happened with the fertilizer explosion in Beirut Lebanon. Something like that would completely level the city of Fernandina. But I guess that’s alright. It’s all about the Benjamins.
This is just the beginning of the nightmare folks. You can take that to the bank.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack(@tammi-kosack)
1 year ago

Here’s an update from the North end of the Historic District that borders the Port: we’ve contacted FDEP, who spent over 4 hours one day investigating, and has both Air and Compliance branches involved. While the Port operators taut “best practices” being used, the immediate residents report fine white powder on front porches, on cars and INSIDE homes, covering the surface of tables. The smell of cement is evident as the wind blows from the North. The 11,667 bags (minus the dozen or so 1500 lb bags that were damaged) are stacked 30′ from the residential area.

After a few hours outside, I can say for myself, that there is evidence of physical discomfort in nasal passages and throat.

As a stakeholder selected to represent the Historic District for the Port Master Plan, I have received numerous emails, texts, photos, videos, phone calls and visits from citizens concerned about this assault on our homes and our city.

This is an atrocious assault on our city and can have drastic effects including lawsuits resulting from health hazards, diminished value of property, loss of tourism and degraded quality of life. There is real chance of the Port creating a blighted area in our city where citizens have invested multiple millions of dollars over the past few years in restoration.

Who will pay the ultimate price?

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_67068)
1 year ago

Oh, the humanity!
The malevolent cloud of death and destruction has descended on the promised land and wrought its pestilence upon God’s favored people. Surely we shall all perish unless we repent our misguided ways. (At the next election.)
It’s just cement dust?
They have a cleanup plan?
And a broom & hose?
Never mind.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack(@tammi-kosack)
1 year ago
Reply to  John Goshco

C’mon up John. Stay here for 6 days during the cement movement. Breathe it in. You are welcome any time. No extra charge for the grit in your teeth during windy days.

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_67076)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tammi Kosack

I sympathize with your plight. I really do. However- with the port on one side and West Rock on the other, it’s obviously a highly industrialized area where, unfortunately, these things can be predicted to occur from time to time.
That’s not to say that everything shouldn’t be done to minimize or eliminate the hazards. It just seemed to me that a few of the above comments were just a “little” over the top.
By the way – I live near the airport and was “surprised” to learn that those noisy little buzz bombs sometimes escape their confines and harass us peace-loving civilians. One plane even dropped into my neighbor’s driveway for a visit. Go figure.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_67074)
1 year ago

Hope it doesn’t get “wet”.

Jeffrey Bunch
Jeffrey Bunch(@j-bunch)
1 year ago

Did you pass many log trucks on your way to the island? Did you not notice the two factories when you came over the bridge? Did you not notice the smell when you arrived here? Was the port not there when you overpaid for your home???? It’s called due diligence and apparently a lot of you failed to do any before you decided to move here. Have a nice day 

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_67129)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeffrey Bunch

Don’t forget the railroad tracks and freight yards west of 8th street. (All the way from the bridge to West Rock.) Anyone living within 1/4 – 1/2 mile of the tracks is, potentially, in a high-hazard evacuation zone in the event of leakage or a spill from one of the many freight and chemical tank cars that pass through on a daily basis.

Oscar Martinez
Oscar Martinez (@guest_67225)
1 year ago
Reply to  John Goshco

I long for the days of good ole Chris Ragucci. I guess he was not so bad

Ann (@guest_67235)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeffrey Bunch

My dad worked at Container until he died at the age of 63. That mill fed and clothed me and so many others. It smells like money to me and I’m thankful that we still have it. If people don’t like it, then pack your bags and get off the Island.

Kevin B
Kevin B(@kevin-b)
1 year ago

It sounds like this event falls under a violation of environmental laws and regulations.
Folks living near this event should Go to to file a report for further investigation.

You can also search on for related articles on the health risks/exposure under “Health Effects Of Inhaled Crystalline And Amorphous Silica”.