DADE CITY — Herschel Vineyard, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection secretary, has denied a controversial landfill permit in rural northeast Pasco County for the third and final time.
Angelo’s Aggregate, which first applied for the landfill permit in 2006, has now exhausted its administrative appeals. The company has 30 days to file a notice of appeal to seek a judicial review of Vineyard’s ruling.
Landfill opponent Carl Roth called the ruling a victory for the property owners, community groups and businesses who worked together to defeat the landfill. The case drew widespread opposition from Tampa area cities, businesses and residents who feared the site’s proximity to the Withlacoochee River and Green Swamp could lead to contamination of the water supply. The landfill site is in an area rife with sinkholes.
Roth said he was elated when he read Vineyard’s final order. “Excitement beyond belief - that’s what I felt,” he said.
Vineyard adopted the 47-page recommended order by Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter in full, rejecting the three exceptions raised by Angelo’s legal team.
Canter presided over a five-week appeal hearing in late 2012. In his opinion, released June 28, Canter wrote that attorneys for the DEP and Nestlé, parent company of Zephyrhills Spring Water, presented “overwhelming evidence that the proposed landfill site is an unstable area.”
Canter said Angelo’s failed to prove the ground can be stabilized enough to limit the danger of damage to nearby water supplies.
If a sinkhole formed under the landfill, breeching the liner, the leachate could travel through the Floridan Aquifer, contaminate wells and reach the Hillsborough River — Tampa’s main water supply — within days.
“This has been a long and challenging process,” Nestlé attorney Doug Manson said. “Throughout discovery and hearings the partners, the public, supporters and local governments remained focused on one thing: protecting the community, Crystal Springs and drinking water supplies from this very real threat.”