DADE CITY — State regulators Monday postponed deciding whether to give a private company permission to build a controversial landfill east of Dade City after receiving a critical report from an expert hired by a lawyer representing rancher Bill Blanchard.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection asked Angelo's Aggregate Materials to wait another month to allow officials to review the report, done by professional engineer J.E. Fluet Jr. The new deadline is Feb. 12.
"This shows we are taking our regulatory responsibilities very seriously," said DEP spokeswoman Pamala Vazquez. "We have said if anyone wants to provide any technical information to us, we'll take it. We have not made a final decision."
Fluet is an engineering professor who once served as chairman of the Technical Advisory Task Force for DEP. He said he helped write many of the current landfill regulations.
In his review of the application and supporting documents, he said the application contained "many errors."
"Although most of the design methods were acceptable, there were many problems with the (quality control) and (quality assurance) of the design analysis and calculations as well as the presentation of the results," he wrote.
Among his concerns were the positioning of runoff removal pipes under the weight of the landfill.
"Should the pipes break or fail in any way, there will be no way to fix the problem," he wrote. "The current design is complex, difficult to build, violates FDEP rules, will be difficult to defend in public hearings and the inevitable media attacks, and is potentially dangerous."
He also expressed concern that Angelo's had not provided a sinkhole map. "Because of the suspicious nature of the applicant's response on the issue of sinkholes and the devastating impact should there be sinkholes beneath the landfill, it is recommended that the FDEP sinkhole map be supplemented with a geological study using ground-penetrating radar," Fluet's report said.
Blanchard's family owns almost 1,900 acres near the proposed landfill, much of it under conservation protection but some home to a tree and plant business.
"I am confident that we can continue to show DEP that this application has numerous technical flaws," Blanchard said through a spokeswoman. "I feel strongly that DEP should not allow Angelo's to put a landfill in a sinkhole at the headwaters of the Hillsborough River."
He and fellow rancher Robert Thomas have spent thousands on lobbyists and lawyers to fight the proposed landfill. Thomas' ranch spans 14,000 acres in Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando counties. He also is a developer and he owns Crystal Springs Preserve, which Nestlé pumps for drinking water.
Carol Cassara, a representative for Angelo's, said she had not seen Fluet's report. She provided the following statement from project manager John Arnold: "DEP asked that we provide additional time for their review, and we granted it."
The proposed landfill has drawn a firestorm of protest from opponents, which include a number of environmental groups, as well as governments in Dade City and Zephyrhills. Tampa also has expressed concern about the possible effects on its drinking water.
The area's two state senators, Victor Crist and Mike Fasano, have gone on record opposing the landfill. Crist tried unsuccessfully last year to pass a bill that would essentially ban the landfill.
Angelo's wants to build the private, for-profit landfill on a site less than a mile from the Withlacoochee River. It would be near the Hillsborough River and the headwaters of the Green Swamp, both sensitive areas for drinking water supplies.
The Class 1 landfill, referred to in company literature as an "organic composting and recycling center," would accept all types of household garbage, about 3,000 tons a day. It could cover 1,000 acres east of Dade City.
Company officials have said Pasco County would reap a savings of $519-million over 22 years if the landfill is allowed to be built off U.S. 98 between Enterprise and Messick roads. That's in contrast to the $350-million they say it would cost to expand Pasco's incinerator.
Arnold said his company's proposal is initially for 92 acres, but he said the property they're submitting for the county's land use approval is more than 1,000 acres.
It would be the first privately held landfill in Pasco to accept raw household garbage and other trash, such as construction debris. It would not accept biohazardous material.
Angelo's is the offshoot of 47-year-old Angelo Iafrate Cos. of Warren, Mich. The company specializes in crushing and recycling concrete, among other ventures.
Dominic Iafrate runs Angelo's Aggregate Materials, which has a recycling and disposal facility in Largo as well as a 111-acre Class 3 landfill in east Pasco, just north of its proposed Messick Road site. A Class 3 landfill accepts only waste that will not produce leachate.
For its Messick Road proposal, Angelo's says it is planning to put in an award-winning leachate system that includes double-lining its cells.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.