LAKE WALES – To help residents get rid of unwanted items, counties usually establish landfills and recycling centers where people can drop off things they no longer want but can’t throw out with their regular trash.
Not everyone, it seems, wants to make that trip to the landfill.
On Tuesday, Environmental Crimes deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, arrested two men and charged them will illegally dumping items in Lake Wales.
The men are accused of dumping nearly 8,000 tires they had gathered as part of a used tire business in Lakeland.
The case started on Tuesday, Feb. 21 when deputies got a tip that a large number of tires – thousands, literally — could be seen from the roadway piled up under a pole barn at a private home at 5310 Sand Dollar Road in the Lake Wales Estates.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office Environmental Crimes deputies contacted agents from the FDEP, and deputies from both agencies went to the property, where they quickly found that pole barn. They also had no trouble locating 7,800 tires piled within it, and a semi box trailer parked nearby, containing another 500 tires, “apparently waiting to be offloaded,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, in her report on the case.
As part of the investigation, deputies interviewed Robert Bickford, 30, who lives at the Sand Dollar Road address. According to the deputies, Bickford told them his employer, Kenneth M. Lowman, 68, of 477 Enclave Place in Lakeland, had been paying him to allow Lowman’s business, Greenway Tire, to dump the tires there.
The business based in Lakeland is only permitted to transport waste tires, Eleazer noted.
“The business profits by collecting and removing waste tires from smaller businesses, such as automotive centers,” she noted. “The business is then responsible for transporting the tires to a licensed, permitted waste tire or tire recycling facility. Instead, Lowman had tractor-trailer loads of tires delivered to Bickford’s property.”
That residence, she added, isn’t properly licensed to store or process waste tires. Those tires stacked on top of one another under the pole barn, she added, pose a clear environmental hazard in several ways.
“The waste tires deputies found there were within 200 feet of a natural body of water, and less than 500 feet from a potable well,” she said. “Deputies also found evidence that the tires were being illegally burned on the property.”
Chemical composition tests on waste rubber have indicated that the material contains various toxic and hazardous air pollutants. Once burned, those pollutants become airborne.
Lowman was arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail on one felony count of illegal dumping. He has been released on bail.
Bickford was arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail on a list of environmental charges, including one count each of failure to obtain a waste tire permit, storing waste tires at a non-permitted facility, open burning within 50 feet of a residence, storage of waste tires within 200 feet of natural water, storage of waste tires within 500 feet of a potable water supply, burning of rubber material, burning of prohibited materials, and storage of solid waste at an unpermitted facility.
He remains in the Polk County Jail on a $4,500 bond.
The FDEP is also continuing to investigate the lack of permits held by Lowman’s business.
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