Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Riverwalk builder says it retrained workers, moved operation after dumping video

TAMPA — In its first public statement since a video showed liquid concrete being dumped into the Hillsborough River, the company building a new section of the Riverwalk said Friday it has retrained workers and changed where it washes out equipment.

Tampa officials this week demanded that Johnson Bros. Corp. of Lithia, which has an $8.8 million city construction contract, address the video by saying in writing what happened, why it happened and what it would do to remedy the situation.

On Friday, Johnson Bros. project engineer Tom Charles sent the city a letter about "measures we have taken to prevent future issues from arising."

Along with being retrained in the proper handling of materials, all on-site employees were told the "ramifications for violating proper environmental protection protocols."

Charles provided no details, but the company has told City Hall that it fired at least one worker and disciplined others. In conversations with city officials this week, the company has been apologetic, city spokeswoman Ali Glisson said. The letter did not include any apologies.

"As of now there doesn't appear to be any damage to the river as this was a small amount of turbid water and most likely (was) dissipated and diluted by the river flow," Charles wrote.

Tests for turbidity — or cloudiness — that Johnson Bros. did Wednesday found the amount of particulates in the water to be in the normal range and in line with earlier samples, officials said.

That's consistent with what inspectors from the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission observed on Thursday, said Andy Schipfer, the commission's assistant director of waste management. They didn't see any cloudiness in the river or anything to suggest there is a continuing problem.

Glisson declined to comment on whether City Hall accepts the company's response as sufficient. It arrived late in the afternoon, and not every city official who would need to be involved in that conversation was available.

Downtown worker Matthew Von Dohre made the video Tuesday. After it became public, Johnson Bros. moved its concrete washouts from its barge on the river to its staging area on land.

The washout area was moved "to contain and prevent any future erosion control issues," Charles said.

After watching Thursday's washout, which took place on a large tarp onshore, city officials said it was done properly.

The discharge into the river could violate county, state or federal laws regarding waste disposal, turbidity or improperly filling a body of water, Schipfer said.

Johnson Bros. is building a section of the Riverwalk from MacDill Park under the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

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