Cortez residents protest ‘toxic’ spray from boat repair shop

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Vehicles park near the 30-foot paint shop erected without permits at Cortez Cove Marina, 4520 121st St. W., Cortez. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
A a boat repair operation in a large utility building — a canopy with metal trusses — stands at the waterfront end of 121st Street West in Cortez.
Gail Roberts and Val Pavlick of Cortez state their concerns about toxic dust clouds and parking problems resulting from the construction of a boat shop at 121st Street and 45th Avenue West.
Dust clings to water Aug. 28 in the 121st Street West neighborhood in Cortez. Islander Photo: Courtesy Anne MacArthur

“Poison dust in Cortez!”

That’s the subject line of Anne MacArthur’s Sept. 11 email to The Islander about ongoing resin spray from Yacht Solutions at Cortez Cove Marina in the 4500 block of 121st Street West.

For the past two months, neighbors say dust from grinding fiberglass boat bottoms has billowed from and around a large boat canopy — an open-ended tent with covered metal trusses — creating a wind tunnel that allows chemicals and residue to spray the area.

Neighbors Gail Roberts, who owns neighboring properties, Dave Hinchman and others have complained to marina partners Karen Bell and Fernando and Maria Helena Costa, the paint and repair shop operating under the canopy. The also made complaints to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — without results — before pleading their case to the newspaper.

Bell said Fernando Costa is working with the county on the issue, but the Costas had not returned a call for comment as of Sept. 14.

“The enclosure was supposed to help contain anything they were doing. The neighbors had concerns prior to the tent about similar issues,” Bell wrote in a Sept. 13 text.

A Manatee County code enforcement record showed inspectors visited the property in May and the operator said it had purchased the tent “to house all such activities.”

Code enforcement officer John Howard said he issued a notice of violation to the owners June 14 because the shop canopy was erected without a building permit.

Howard said he understood the owner was in the process of applying for an after-the-fact site plan adjustment for the shop canopy— and had been penalized with a fine for failing to pull a permit before erecting the structure.

Howard said he planned to revisit the property.

The neighbors report workers wear breathing masks and other protective gear, but nothing protects against the wind spewing the paint spray.

“It’s bottom paint, which is toxic. It’s fiberglass, which is toxic,” said Layne Schock, who lives across the street.

“I don’t have a problem with them doing it. But I have a problem with them doing it right there,” he said.

Tom Iovino, communications director for the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County, said air quality concerns should be directed to the DEP and “inadequately controlled” ventilation issues are within the purview of Manatee County code enforcement.

DEP spokesperson Shannon Herbon said in a Sept. 14 email, “We will be sending someone out to inspect from a stormwater perspective early next week.”

Another email concluded, “The dust produced by this activity would not meet the DEP’s threshold for an air permit.”

Herbon wrote she also notified Manatee County code enforcement to advise the DEP if any issues at the marina fell within its oversight.

The neighbors also have concerns that the business causes parking issues.

The business is located where there was a parking lot used by the workers at the marina and another business, Coastal Marine Canvas & Upholstery at 4522 121st St. W.

Workers now park on 121st Street West and block access to residential properties.

Dave Bristow, public information director for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said he found no written complaints from the neighbors.

As of Sept. 14, code enforcement officials had not returned The Islander’s request for a status on Howard’s plan to reinspect the property.

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