Plantation of Carrollwood workers dumped steel drums and playground equipment into lakes in hopes of increasing the fish count. Instead, the drums polluted the lakes and the county wants them gone.
When Plantation of Carrollwood needed trash cans years ago, the community bought several 55-gallon steel drums, but they didn't fit inside the stands.
Maintenance workers held onto the drums, hoping to find another use for them.
Late last year, a maintenance worker got the idea to dump the containers into several of the lakes in this neighborhood, thinking it might increase the fish population. The 17 steel drums were submerged in lakes near Chadbourne, Bellefield and the community clubhouse.
Although the drums are not suspected to contain any toxic waste, they are polluting the lakes, which are homes to bass and perch.
"This is deemed a serious situation," said David Watson, an agent with the county's Environmental Protection Commission. "It was a shock to hear they had admitted to something like this, but because they were straightforward in explaining what happened, we decided to give them 10 days."
While Plantation was not fined, the subdivision was issued a warning.
"We thought (the containers) would make good protected areas for bass fish to breed in," said Tom Jones, property manager. "In hindsight, I'd have to say it wasn't a good idea. We had good intentions, but it was the wrong thing to do."
In addition to the steel drums, county environmental inspectors learned that last fall Plantation workers dumped four pieces of a tubular plastic playground slide in the lake closest to the community clubhouse. Again, Jones said he believed the playground equipment would attract fish.
Plantation has until March 22 to remove all the waste and must submit a copy of the disposal receipt to the county, Watson said.
Watson will be present when the items are retrieved from the lakes. Once the drums are out of the water, he said he will make sure they are empty even though there is no reason to suspect they contain any hazardous materials.
The illegal dumping was reported by Plantation resident Mary Jo Kail, who is also a real estate agent and a vocal community critic. Kail said she questioned maintenance men she saw dumping the containers in the lake near her home.
When she was ignored, Kail said she went to Jones. She said Jones didn't see anything wrong with the dumping and told her that some playground equipment had been disposed of the same way.
On Jan. 17, Kail said she informed Plantation board members of the situation and when she got no response from them, she contacted the EPC.
"It should be removed," Kail said. "Because according to Plantation's bylaws nobody is to dump anything in the lake. You can't have laws and have management ignore them."
Jones said he thought it was okay to submerge the drums because they were clean. But he understands the EPC's concerns.
"Normally we do not go around putting stuff in the lakes," Jones said. "This was a one-time occurrence. It was done in broad daylight. We weren't trying to hide it. We apologize it happened and it won't happen again."
_ To reach Tim Grant call 226-3471, or e-mail him at grantsptimes.com.