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State sues Pinellas man over lead contamination

Circle Lead Products illegally dumped waste in a residential area, a state agency alleges.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is suing a Pinellas County man, accusing him of illegally dumping hazardous waste on a residential lot in the Lealman area just north of St. Petersburg.

The state has filed suit against Circle Lead Products and its owner, Michael L. Circle. The DEP is accusing Circle of lead contamination at 4303 46th St. N, a lot that sits near Joe's Creek.

According to the lawsuit, Michael Circle has been using scrap metal to manufacture lead products such as weight blocks for scuba diving belts since 1982.

The company's melting vat sits in an 11- by 10-foot metal shed on 46th Street N. The lot also contains a house and a garage, according to the lawsuit, filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court on Monday.

To produce about 95,000 pounds of lead a year, Circle melted down the scrap in the vat and skimmed off the dross. DEP officials say that process produced about 21,000 pounds of lead dross over the past 10 years.

But there is some question about what happened to it.

According to the DEP's lawsuit, Circle "stated that he sent the lead dross to Gulf Coast Recycling Inc. for recycling, but failed to produce receipts for the dross disposal."

Instead, DEP scientists found lead in the soil on the property in concentrations "so high that the soil in the location of the samples is toxic hazardous waste," according to the lawsuit.

The soil will remain contaminated unless Circle cleans it up, DEP officials contend, and it is likely to contaminate underground water in the area as well.

The lawsuit accused Circle of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste and creating an "imminent and substantial danger to . . . humans, wildlife and vegetation in the vicinity of the facility."

DEP officials want a judge to order Circle to stop the illegal disposal. The DEP also wants Circle to assess the nature and extent of contamination, set up a groundwater monitoring plan approved by the DEP and clean up the contamination.

The state is also seeking monetary damages "for destruction of natural resources."

Circle of 5530 94th Ave., Pinellas Park, didn't return a phone message seeking his comment Tuesday. DEP attorney Agusta Posner also couldn't be reached for comment.

The Circle Lead Products lot is surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

A couple of neighbors contacted Tuesday were disturbed by the news that the state considers the Circle lot a toxic waste site, but they didn't want to comment publicly.

_ Times staff writers Mike Brassfield and Sharon Tubbs contributed to this report.