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Anxious Hudson residents demand landfill stay closed

The controversial Sunset Sand Mine and Landfill in Hudson can't reopen for dumping without a permit from Pasco County.

About 100 concerned residents turned out for a County Commission meeting Tuesday night to make sure commissioners know that they will not stand by and let it reopen _ period.

"It has been a living hell," said Francis Byrne, president of the Brentwood Estates Homeowners' Association. The subdivision is next to the landfill at New York Avenue and Hicks Road. "We have put up with rotten-egg smells, dirt, dust and noise. We have suffered from headaches, watery eyes . . . and diarrhea," he said.

"We in Brentwood are very concerned about our community water well being contaminated. . . . We would like to see the landfill closed and stay closed so our lives can be back to normal."

Several residents came forward to state their concerns and ask questions about progress at the landfill, which has been closed since January, when emergency workers detected potentially hazardous levels of hydrogen sulfide gas there. County Attorney Karla Stetter said Sunset owner Milo Dakic is close to finishing the capping process, which is designed to eliminate that problem.

"They are currently in the process of closing the portion of the mine that is leaking gas," she said. "They are 95 percent complete in closing that portion. . . . They will be 100 percent done" at some time in July.

Stetter emphasized Tuesday that "the mine cannot just automatically open up." Permit applications with the county and with the state's Department of Environmental Protection would have to be filed and another public hearing would have to be held before that could happen, she said.

Commission Chairwoman Sylvia Young read a letter from state Rep. Michael Fasano in which he sides with the residents and urges the commission to keep Sunset from doing more business.

"It is the people who live near the landfill site who have to live with the problems that we only read about," Fasano wrote. "I believe that the people of Hudson have suffered enough."

Commissioner Ed Collins said he understood residents' frustration but reminded them that the commission was limited in what it could do.

"We're doing everything we can, but we want to be very, very careful that we don't jeopardize the normal process," he said. "We're being cautious. We're not hiding anything."

Fred Adams of Thompson Avenue in Hudson said that as a military veteran _ who was "protecting the rights of everyone in this room" _ he felt cheated by the apparent lack of information. "I retired here, and now I find as much danger in my back yard as I found in Vietnam," he said.

"I think it's time for my government to take care of me," Adams said, to loud applause.

Young asked County Administrator John Gallagher to make sure that each question brought up at the public hearing _ from health concerns to water tests to air monitoring _ is answered by the proper department. Those answers will then be provided to the commissioners and to the public.

Jawdet Rubaii, a Clearwater attorney who represents the Dakic family, said he didn't want to comment specifically about what residents said but classified the concerns as media hype.

"The emergency should never have been called," he said.

"There is no hydrogen sulfide. If someone will tell us what we're doing wrong, we'll correct it. . . . I don't know what else you would have the man do."

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