Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Middleburg Raid Finds Huge Trash Pit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Middleburg Raid Finds Huge Trash Pit

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer

A Middleburg man in jail on habitual traffic offender charges is expected to face additional charges next week after an investigation revealed a massive pit on his property filled with thousands of pounds of buried construction debris and other refuse, law enforcement authorities said.

The State Attorney's Office was reviewing the case this week and preparing to file a felony charge of operating an illegal dump against James J. Clark Jr., said Mary Justino, spokeswoman for the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

A joint investigation by the Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection led authorities, armed with a search warrant, to Clark's home on Cottontail Court north of County Road 218 on June 24.

It wasn't long before all sorts of trash and discarded items and materials were unearthed from the pit, which measured about 200 feet long by at least 100 feet wide, Justino said.

"Bulldozers from the public works department filled up a dump truck the first day with about 2,300 pounds of debris," she said. "It takes 500 pounds at a site to be considered a felony, so they stopped weighing after the first truckload. But that first truckload was just the tip of the iceberg."

The buried contents of the pit, Justino said, included everything from old roofing and building materials, paint buckets and banged-up bicycles, to rusty appliances and worn tires.

Search crews found no chemicals, oils, or other toxic substances, Justino said.

Jody Conway, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection in Jacksonville, said Clark potentially could face fines up to $10,000 per day, per violation. But she said the agency's main concern is ensuring that the waste is removed for proper disposal and that there has been no harm to the environment. …

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