Dust from 20-foot mounds of dirt irritates residents at community west of Lake Worth Beach

Article Courtesy of  The Palm Beach Post

By Mike Diamond

Published October 3, 2020


The golf-course conversion at Fountains Country Club is off to a rough start.

Twenty-foot tall mounds of dirt are scattered throughout what was once a fairway on a shuttered nine-hole golf course adjacent to 180 condominiums at Trevi Court, a section of the Fountains west of Lake Worth Beach. Aside from the construction eyesore, the main problem is dust from the mounds coat windows, cover cars and get into the lungs of residents.


The builder has already pierced a sprinkler line and cut emergency electrical service for elevators in three buildings, according to the Trevi Court board of directors. The service was restored within three days, but what really has residents concerned is the amount of dust in the air.

Suzi Poll, an elderly woman with asthma who is president of the board at Trevi Court, said she is coughing more than ever. She will soon see her pulmonologist to determine how the dust has affected her. Her neighbor, Maryann Bonborcoraglio, said her eyes have become so red that she has scheduled an appointment with her eye doctor.

It was not supposed to be this way, according to Trevi Court spokesman Rob Jacobs, noting that the builder, Ridgewood Real Estate Partners of New Jersey, assured residents last year that the mounds would be placed on no more than a half acre at a time. Instead, the arsenic-laden mounds are spread over six to seven acres of the fairway. They have been there for more than a month.

“They excavate an area, leave the mounds and move on to another area,” Jacobs said. “We were first told the whole process would take six weeks. Now they say three months and even longer. We understand they have a right to build. We just want it done safely.”

Ridgewood Real Estate Partners is developing six to seven acres that used to be a golf course behind Fountains Country Club west of Lake Worth Beach, Florida.


There is stagnant water adjacent to the mounds, creating fears that they could become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and even West Nile virus, Jacobs said. Ridgewood has refused to allow the Fountains environmental geologist to take water samples from the lakes.

Dozens of trees have been removed, which was expected but the branches and debris sat on the property for a week, Jacobs said, raising concerns they attracted rodents.

Jonathan Grebow, president of Ridgewood Real Estate Partners, said his company is following the plan and protocols that were submitted and approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“As with any land development, we understand people can have some concerns. I have also reminded the residents that we are, and have been, in communication and working directly with Scott Harris, the president of the Fountains Community Organization (FCO), keeping him updated on the schedule and answering not only his questions and concerns but also those of the residents. We look forward to continuing to work with the FCO in completing this necessary remediation quickly and carefully as we have been.”

Efforts to contact Harris were unsuccessful but Jacobs said communication has been poor. The fairway around Trevi Court was supposed to be one of the last areas to be excavated, he noted.

“Then things suddenly changed with almost no notice, we were the first to be impacted,” he said.

Nearly 150 residents of Trevi Court have signed a petition demanding that the work be stopped until the developer holds a public meeting to explain what has occurred.

When the county approved the 318-unit apartment complex in July 2019, County Commissioner Gregg Weiss said “golf course conversions are always a challenge” but noted he was pleased that the developer and homeowners were able to work together to address issues that needed to be resolved.

Asked to comment about problems that have developed, Weiss said his office has engaged the State Department of Environmental Protection and Palm Beach County’s Building and Code Enforcement to monitor the project to ensure that it is performed in compliance with state and county codes.

“The health and safety of our residents are always paramount,” Weiss said.

Trevi Court has leased its own set of dust-control monitors. Jacobs said at times, they show excessive dust in the air. “But regardless of what the levels show, no one should have to live under these conditions,” he said. “The developer needs to control the dust.”

Code Enforcement Director Robert Santos-Alborna said the project is under investigation for possible code violations.

“There were a number of conditions imposed upon the builder and we need to see if those conditions are being adhered to,” he said.

Jacobs said Ridgewood picked a horrible time to begin the project. This is in the peak of the hurricane season, he noted, adding: “There is dust all over the place with moderate winds. What happens with gale-force or hurricane-force winds? These mounds wind up in Trevi Court.”

Homeowners at Fountains sold their country club and golf courses to California-based Concert Properties LLC as a way to end costly mandatory memberships. Concert has been selling off parts of the golf course to builders.

The nine-hole course, adjacent to Trevi Court, will be site of the apartment complex, Lofts at Lake Worth. Arsenic has been detected on the golf course. That is not unusual as remnants of arsenic-containing herbicides are often detected at older golf courses. The arsenic can only be disturbed based on state and county-approved dust-control plan.

At this point, Ridgewood is removing the soil and will eventually mix it with clean fill to bring arsenic levels to acceptable levels.