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Company will pay $15,000 for dumping in small lake

A Pinellas Park company has agreed to pay a $15,000 fine for havingdumped garbage, construction debris and other material into a small lake, state officials said.

McPhe Investment Corp. also will test the ground water, surface water and soil near the Pinellas Park lake, said Charles Markun, an environmental specialist for the state Department of Environmental Regulation (DER).

If the settlement is approved by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Howard P. Rives, it will lay to rest a civil lawsuit the DER filed against the company two years ago.

The penalty would be added to a $25,000 criminal fine levied in September against McPhe and Dennis Hallam, manager of the company.

They were convicted in circuit court of violating environmental laws.

It was believed to be the first criminal prosecution of an environmental violation in Pinellas County.

Environmental officials said the size of the civil and criminal fines sends a message to those who knowingly break environmental rules and laws in Florida.

"It's probably far more economical to follow state law and regulations," said Nan Baggett, a DER official. "The message is this: If you want to work in the waters of Florida, get the appropriate permits."

Tom Little, the lawyer representing McPhe, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The settlement of the lawsuit would require McPhe to test the water and soil around the lake for pollution within 90 days, said David Thulman, a lawyer for DER.

McPhe also will have to devise and implement a stormwater plan to divert drainage of the lake away from the Cross Bayou Canal, a nearby source of drinking water.

McPhe would be allowed to continue filling the lake but would be allowed to use only clean fill material, the DER's Markun said.

"What will happen in the end is that the (lake) will be filled with clean debris and will have a stormwater management plan," Thulman said.

DER accused McPhe of dumping 55-gallon drums, plastic, old pipes, wires, shingles and wood into the 6-acre lake, southeast of Bryan Dairy and Belcher roads, during the last several years.

The case came to the attention of state environmental officials when they got a report in 1987 of two tanker trucks dumping loads of "black liquid" into the lake.

State officials worried that materials in the lake might contaminate the canal. The lake is connected to the canal by a culvert.