DADE CITY — Attorneys for a company seeking to put a controversial landfill near Dade City have submitted a revised application they say will alleviate any sinkhole concerns that kept regulators from granting a permit.
The new submissions came late last week, as Angelo's Aggregate Materials was wrapping up its case before Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter, who will determine whether the state Department of Environmental Protection followed proper procedure when it told the company in 2009 that the application would be rejected.
The hearing, which began in early October and was in its fourth week, was postponed and scheduled to resume Dec. 3.
"At the end of the day it's very simple," said Jake Varn, an attorney for Angelo's. "We revised those specs to eliminate the concerns the other parties have raised. We're trying to make revisions to the plan rather than fight about it."
Revisions include identifying new areas that would get injected with concrete grout to prevent sinkholes from developing, and making new calculations to get a more accurate picture of ground settlement.
"(DEP) said to increase (grouting sites) to 27 and we added another six to make it 33," Varn said, adding that the opposition's criticism during the hearing has been "very generalized."
Angelo's, which is owned by the Iafrate family, is seeking to build a private, for-profit household garbage landfill four miles southeast of Dade City off Enterprise Road, near a construction landfill the company already owns.
Opposition arose immediately after the company applied for a permit in 2006. A grassroots environmental group, local governments, powerful ranchers and the Nestle Waters North America company, which bottles water from nearby Crystal Springs, all came out in force against it. The critics alleged that the landfill was too close to the Green Swamp and Hillsborough River, which serves as a source of drinking water for the city of Tampa. They also pointed out that the area had a high risk for sinkholes.
Angelo's said it provided reasonable assurance that the project posed no environmental threat and in some cases exceeded safety requirements.
In the end, DEP officials said the sinkhole risk was too high. Angelo's then scaled down its plans from a 90-acre to a 30-acre landfill, but DEP reaffirmed its earlier decision. Officials noted that when workers drilled into the soil in 2007 to test the strength of the land, a 4-foot-wide sinkhole cracked open.
At the hearing this month, an expert testified that the site was so dimpled it resembled a golf ball.
"The more data they produce on the site, the worse the site looks for a landfill," Doug Manson, attorney for Nestle and the city of Tampa, said during opening arguments.
Opponents of the landfill cried foul at the Angelo's latest revision.
"These last-minute changes after years of foot dragging is 'interesting' gaming of the system," said Carl Roth, head of the anti-landfill group Protectors of Florida's Legacy.
Varn said the Largo-based company had included grouting in its original application to DEP. The agency then told the company to add more, he said, so Angelo's did.
"If we can respond to everyone's concerns then they have no reason for denying our application," Varn said.