Don’t dump the dump!

by Richard Hamann, Environmental Law researcher

I support the permit modification that would allow Florence Recycling to fill space on the existing footprint of Construction and Demolition Debris Disposal Facility to a higher elevation than is currently authorized. 

The Florence family has operated this facility for many years with no adverse effects on the environment or the surrounding community. As someone who has lived on property adjacent to the SE corner of the landfill site since 1983, I can make that statement based on personal observation. 

I am very familiar with the regulatory process and environmental issues, having taught and researched environmental law at the University of Florida for 35 years, served as the Chair of the Environmental and Land Use Law Section of The Florida Bar, and served on the boards of several environmental organizations, including Florida Defenders of the Environment and the Florida Wildlife Federation.

When I first acquired my homestead, the site of the Florence Landfill was a pit from which sand had been extracted and into which the owners had begun to dispose of trash. My neighbors and I lobbied to put an end to that. The property was then sold to someone who began to operate a C&D landfill but was unable to follow the rules and soon faced enforcement action. When Paul Florence proposed to take over the site, we met with him and devised a plan whereby C&D material that had been taken directly to the landfill by roofers, builders or in roll off containers, would be taken instead to a transfer station. At that site it would be off-loaded onto a concrete floor, screened for inappropriate materials or materials that could be recycled, and then loaded into Florence’s own trucks for transport to the landfill. 

Some additional material is taken directly to the landfill from demolition sites. The crew at the landfill does another search as the material is deposited there. In response to the concerns of the community, the landfill is only operated during the week and for limited hours (i.e., 8:30-4:30, Monday-Friday). This system has worked well. I have watched the Florence workers as they remove potentially hazardous materials and household trash from the waste stream. If anything can be recycled, they pull it out for that purpose. I have great confidence in the integrity of the operation. 

I also know how important it is for the community. Every day there is a constant stream of trucks and trailers from roofers and builders bringing waste materials to the transfer station. Their other option is haul that material across the City of Gainesville to the western side of Alachua County. What an enormous waste of time and fuel that would be. It only makes sense to get more capacity to provide this essential service out of the same landfill footprint.  

Florence Recycling has also been a great asset to the community in other ways. For years a property close to the landfill had been used as an illegal dump site by its owners. A huge quantity of trash had accumulated on the site. A couple hoped to build their own homestead on the property but could not until the trash and the enormous liens imposed by the county had been removed.Paul Florence came in with heavy equipment, trucks and roll off containers to help the community clean up the site. He did that at no charge and accepted all the waste in the landfill. Similar assistance has been provided for the cleanup of conservation lands by Alachua Conservation Trust for ultimate inclusion in Paynes Prairie State Preserve. There are numerous other examples of community service by the Florence family.

A few members of our community are opposed to the permit modification. Most of them are relatively new arrivals. All of us directly adjacent to the landfill are supportive. Unfortunately, these individuals have secured funding from the Sierra Club to contest issuance of the permit for a vertical expansion. In response, the Florence family has had to hire expert witnesses and attorneys of their own, at great expense. It is a colossal waste of time and money that could be used instead for beneficial community projects. 

For those interested in the details, all the legal pleadings can be reviewed on the website of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, Case No. 23-4067.

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