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Septic company will pay reduced fine and keep its license

BROOKSVILLE — Anthony R. Crescenzo lost his fight earlier this year for permission to build a waste treatment facility behind his business, but he will get to keep his septic contractor's license.

Crescenzo, owner of Johns by John II, has reached a settlement agreement with the Florida Department of Health and the Hernando County Health Department that requires him to pay a $500 fine and avoids the revocation of his license. The parties agreed to the deal earlier this month, prior to an administrative hearing that had been scheduled for Dec. 13.

The health departments alleged that Crescenzo's company, in its dealing with customers, offered shoddy service that was "evidence of gross negligence, incompetence and misconduct." In addition to the revocation of his license, health officials sought to slap Crescenzo with a $3,000 fine.

The settlement is "not an admission of liability," according to the agreement.

"It was determined to be in the best interest of the agency not to expend further resources to litigate this matter," said Jessica Hammonds, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health.

Crescenzo, a 34-year-old Weeki Wachee resident, contends the state's willingness to settle was a sign that the case against him was weak.

"If I was this big, bad contractor, do you really think they would have just dropped all claims for 500 bucks? They knew they had nothing to go on, that's the bottom line," he said.

The complaint, filed in July with the Division of Administrative Hearings, cited incidents with three separate customers in November of last year and January of this year. In all three cases, Johns by John failed to completely empty customers' septic tanks, the complaint alleged. In one case, the company failed to replace a damaged tank lid.

In a response filed by his attorney, Crescenzo noted that in all three cases the health departments relied on information from competing contractors who serviced the septic tanks after Johns by John crews. The response stated that Johns by Johns workers told two of the three customers why the systems would not be completely emptied, and that the customers acknowledged this on signed receipts. Health officials also did not notify Crescenzo about the complaints, according to the response.

In the case of the damaged lid, a Johns by Johns employee informed the customer that the lid was damaged prior to pumping, releasing the company from liability, the response states.

The health departments sought to justify the license revocation by citing the company's history of violations, which resulted in fines totaling $1,000 and five written apologies. Crescenzo's response notes that the company was under the ownership of another licensed contractor until 2006. Crescenzo had worked there as an employee for several years prior to purchasing the company in 2006.

Now Crescenzo is on the verge of opening a waste treatment facility in Pasco County, similar the one denied by the Hernando County Commission earlier this year.

Crescenzo has applied for a permit to open a so-called lime stabilization plant in Shady Hills, a spokeswoman for the Pasco Health Department confirmed. The site is on Good Hope Lane, about 2 miles east of Shady Hills Road and a mile and a half south of County Line Road.

Some of the treated waste would be trucked back to Hernando and applied to land on Sweet Gum Road west of Brooksville, which Crescenzo already has a permit to use. He is also in the final phase of the permitting process with the Hernando County Health Department to allow for the same kind of waste to be spread on land off U.S. 41 on the south side of Brooksville, said Al Gray, the department's environmental health manager.

That site, across from the Hernando County Fairgrounds, is comprised of six contiguous agriculture parcels totaling 156 acres, Gray said. The owner is Eagle Fl I SPE LLC, a subsidiary of Branch Banking & Trust, records show. A farmer leases the land, Crescenzo said.

In September, after about three hours of testimony and debate, a divided Hernando County Commission rejected Crescenzo's request for a zoning change to allow him to build a lime treatment facility behind his company headquarters on Cortez Boulevard, just east of Winter Street west of Brooksville.

The plan called for three 10,000-gallon, above-ground tanks, a lime storage building and a large container bin. Waste would have been trucked in from septic tanks, pumped into the tanks, aerated and mixed with lime, which increases the pH level to kill bacteria. The treated material would then have been sprayed on fields.

Among the opponents was the St. Petersburg Times. The company's Hernando bureau and distribution center are directly west of Crescenzo's property.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

Septic company will pay reduced fine and keep its license 12/28/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 6:38pm]
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