BROOKSVILLE — A local trash hauler facing a potential $11,000 fine from a state environmental agency says he is cooperating to resolve the issue.
Joseph Puglia, president of Big Redd Carting, plans to meet with Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials Tuesday to discuss a letter he received in May warning that he is in violation of solid waste permitting rules.
An agency official visited the business's facility on Cortez Boulevard east of Brooksville on March 19 to find an unpermitted transfer station for household waste that also was within 500 feet of a potable well. Environmental officials then issued a stern warning letter seeking $11,000 in civil fines.
Puglia acknowledges transferring trash after two of his commercial collection trucks broke down. He said the warehouse-sized facility was clean soon after the agency staffer left.
"We didn't think that for short term that it would be a problem," he said. "We have been fully cooperative with DEP."
Big Redd collects garbage at about 400 commercial sites in Hernando and Sumter counties and 300 homes in Sumter County, which does not have mandatory collection. Puglia, who ran for the state Legislature in 2008 but soon left the race when his wife became sick, recently sold his majority stake in the company to JLMM, FL Holdings.
The environmental agency launched an investigation after it received an anonymous complaint about trash processing attracting flies and rats. During the visit, an official found strong odors outside the business and a "large stockpile of waste including bagged, household putrescible garbage … on the floor of the building."
Puglia said that when his two trucks went out of service, he collected the trash with residential trucks and brought it back to the facility, where it was transferred to tractor trailers and taken to a landfill in Osceola County. He normally dumps at the Hernando County landfill, but it is not equipped to handle trailers of trash.
He said it came down to letting large trash bins overfill or temporarily transferring garbage until a rental trash truck arrived.
"We were several days behind in the collection," he recalled, "so (the choice was creating) a health hazard outside or doing what we did."
Puglia said the makeshift operation lasted three days and he didn't think it was necessary to obtain a permit, which is required to operate a transfer station. Such operations are forbidden within close proximity of drinking water, which is another area where Big Redd ran afoul of environmental rules.
He said he hopes the hefty fine will get dropped at the meeting with DEP. "But if we have to pay our dues … then we have to pay our dues."
John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.