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Pasco's plan to expand Shady Hills landfill gets extra scrutiny

SHADY HILLS — On the same day that state officials denied a private company's request to build a landfill near Dade City, county officials' efforts to expand the west side landfill also got some extra scrutiny.

In a Feb. 12 letter to the county, the state Department of Environmental Protection said the county's application to begin construction on a new cell at the West Pasco Class I landfill failed to include updated information about the possibility of sinkholes.

"The information provided is incomplete," wrote Steven G. Morgan of the DEP's southwest district office. "Please provide the information listed below promptly. Evaluation of your proposed project will be delayed until all requested information has been received."

The letter was sent the same day that the DEP denied a request from Angelo's Aggregate Materials to build and operate a Class I landfill east of Dade City.

The private company, which already operates a construction and debris landfill near the proposed site, wanted to build a 90-acre landfill that could eventually expand to about 1,000 acres. The request drew fire from many opponents, including prominent ranchers Robert Thomas and Bill Blanchard, who have paid tens of thousands to lobbyists to fight the project. Angelo's also hired lobbyists.

DEP denied the permit, saying Angelo's had not provided "reasonable assurance" that the area was not prone to sinkholes. Angelo's has appealed. The case is pending.

The county already has a permit for its 160-acre site, which serves as a place for household garbage and as a burial place for ash from the county's garbage-burning incinerator. But officials still need the DEP's approval to build each new cell.

According to the regulatory agency, the county's consultant provided information from a 1987 report in its most recent application.

"Things change over the years," said DEP spokeswoman Pamala Vazquez "It's part of our job to make sure we have the most current information to make the best decision."

The county's consultant, Camp Dresser & McKee, responded with a letter that said it re-examined the 1987 report as well as other information from 2005. "In summary, CDM agrees with the findings of the 1987 Jammal Geotechnical/Hydrogeologic Study, which concluded that the proposed location of the … cell is suitable for landfill development," geologist David Rojas wrote.

Bruce Kennedy, Pasco's assistant county administrator for utilities, said the county has never been asked to provide so much additional information, but is doing its best to comply. The landfill permit was approved as part of the incinerator permit, which is subject to a higher level of scrutiny than a landfill.

The inquiry comes at a time when Angelo's claims in its appeal that DEP used one of its divisions improperly to evaluate sinkhole concerns at its proposed site. The branch, the Florida Geological Survey, said a second look at the data indicated more risk than its initial 2007 report found. Its new report noted a sinkhole opened at Angelo's existing landfill while a temporary stormwater pond was being built, 5,000 feet from the proposed site. It rated the possibility of sinkholes as "moderate to high."

Angelo's said in its appeal that no rule or protocol exists for the Florida Geological Survey to evaluate landfill sites.

Vazquez said Pasco's reports have been forwarded to that division for further review.

She said the two cases — Pasco's and Angelo's — are unrelated.

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

Pasco's plan to expand Shady Hills landfill gets extra scrutiny 03/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 9:09pm]

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