BROOKSVILLE - A Class I landfill permit in Pasco County that environmentalists say would have placed Hernando County springs and the Withlacoochee River at risk for contamination was denied last week by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Angelo's Recycled Materials, in Tampa, applied for the permit in 2006, and in 2009 the department issued a notice of intent to deny, which Angelo's appealed.
Among the petitioners wishing to deny the permit during a Division of Administrative Hearings meeting this summer were the City of Tampa, Crystal Springs Preserve Inc. and the City of Zephyrhills.
Perhaps one of the landfill's strongest opponents is Nestle Waters North America Inc., which collects spring water for its Zephyrhills Water product from Crystal Springs.
According to a final order issued Sept. 16 by the department, an administrative law judge found the proposed 30-acre landfill site was within the Crystal Spring springshed.
"The area in Hernando County has a number of springs in it, and underlying that it's a sinkhole-prone area," said Nestle Water Florida spokesman Jon Peck. "On the eastern boundary of Hernando is the Withlacoochee, and that river body was very much at risk if there was this landfill, and one of the arguments is the aquifer.
"There was some potential to contaminate the Withlacoochee watershed, and some of the underlying springs in that whole area," he added.
A representative for Angelo's Recycled Materials could not be reached for comment, but the company's website states its Florida branch, Angelo's Recycled Materials, was created in 1997 to serve the growing demand for recycled materials.
The website also states the company anticipated the Class I landfill permit denied last week would service the Tampa/St. Petersburg region.
The central west part of Florida is prone to sinkholes, which can be difficult to determine where one might occur even with comprehensive geotechnical investigations, engineers say. Sinkhole areas are sometimes small, or not apparent at all, and so fall under the radar.
During legal proceedings, Angelo's, which owns the proposed landfill site, compared the proposed landfill and its permitting process to those of five other landfills in Florida, one of them being the Hernando Northwest Landfill, Peck said.
"The idea as I understand it was to suggest the metrics used to get the permit argued in their favor, asking questions like, 'How many ground-penetrating radar tests were done?'" Peck said. "During the permitting of the Hernando landfill, sinkholes opened under it, which is exactly the warning we were trying to give with the Angelo's landfill. So they were trying to prove their case using an instance that supported our argument instead."
Hernando Northwest Landfill declined comment.