Company illegally dumps waste from I-75 construction, fails to clean it up when caught
Steve Schell

What's an easy way to make big money from state construction jobs? Contract with the DOT to remove construction materials from road projects and just dump the stuff somewhere without getting the necessary permits. It appears that White Construction Company of Chiefland has done just that, possibly contaminating surrounding areas in the process.

In late July, the county Environmental Protection Department received a complaint that White Construction Co. had dumped trash, including hazardous materials, at a site on NW 202nd St. The company owns the property on which the dumping occurred, however, trash and hazardous wastes must be taken to permitted sites, according to Alachua County Codes Enforcement.

Inspectors visiting the property found construction debris which appeared to have originated at the company's I-75 construction project. White Construction Co. is under contract with the state to remove construction debris from the I-75 sites. What an ingenious idea--have the state pay you to remove construction debris and all you have to do is haul it down the road. Never mind that the waste may contain hazardous materials which must be disposed of according to prescribed procedures.

After the site visit, the company was notified of the dumping violations and given until September 1 to clean up the mess. Shortly thereafter, the company requested, and was given, an extension which expired on Friday, September 15. By that time, the company had still failed to comply with the order, although some trash had been removed. The continued presence of old batteries and drums marked as containing hazardous waste suggest the possibility of local groundwater contamination; however, officials do not think that the waste has been present long enough to find its way down to the Floridan Aquifer, beneath a quarry on the property.

Groundwater testing has been done at about 10 homes in the area, but at this time there are no results. County officials have recommended that the case be referred to the Code Enforcement Board. If the company is found in violation, it could be fined $250 per day until it is cleaned up. This seems like a small price to pay for a large company with a fat contract. Arthur Saarinen, president of the Haile Community Association (HCA), says "we would have liked to have seen stronger action." Should groundwater test results show contamination, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection could impose higher fines, and the HCA could ask that criminal charges be filed against the company as well.

Area residents are unhappy with the whole situation, from the dumping to the amount of time (over a month) it took for them to get action from local authorities. White's initial dumping was wrong; it's subsequent failure to comply with the cleanup order shows a blatant disregard for the environment as well as for the laws that were enacted to protect that environment. Companies such as this should not only be held liable for cleanup and all expenses related to the offense, but should be barred from receiving government contracts in the future.

previous article
next article