Homeowners discover source of their backyard dump
LAKELAND - There's a reason Brian Dyer discovered a garbage pit in his backyard when he tried to put in a new pool recently. A previous land owner says her family used it as a landfill before 1975. Unfortunately for Dyer and his family, neither his builder nor the county told him about it. They both said they had no idea it was a landfill. Now the family is discovering they may be on the hook to clean up the site and even build monitoring systems to check for contamination on their neighbors' property. Dyer says he's waiting on Florida's Department of Environmental Protection to discuss the problem and that no one has stepped forward to help pay for the cleanup.Their neighbors are beginning to worry, too. "That's a little bit frightening, to think that our house is built on that and at any time that could shift. And whether we're home or not home, we could have an emergency on our hands," Dyer said. It took contractors just a few hours to unearth a landfill behind the five-year-old home in Lakeland. They found a washing machine, pieces of electronics, tires and household trash. Polk County officials and the builder, Southern Homes, say they knew nothing about the dump.Long-time land owners in the area, however, said they aren't a bit surprised. Shirley and Donald Bryan have lived behind Oak Run Subdivision, for 50 years. "Well, this area had nobody there," said Shirley Bryan. "There were only about four or five houses here when we came here ... And they were the old timers and that's what they did with trash, whatever they had. They put it wherever was the lowest and covered it up." Polk County Property Appraiser Marsha Faux says the land used to be a citrus grove. But old aerial photos show something else was located on Dyer's lot. "You could take that dark spot for being, like we said, it could be a hole in the ground," she said, looking at the images. The previous landowner, Brenda Fox, said she inherited the land from her parents in 1975. When she was a child, her family dug a clay pit on the land to provide the county with foundation material for some of the nearby roads. The pit became a swimming hole for neighborhood kids, but when it came time to fill it in Fox's family wanted to avoid the cost of hauling dirt so they turned it into a dump, Fox said. They offered it to Florida Tile, which she said dumped discarded ceramic. "Wow," said Dyer, the homeowner. "That would explain all the tile in the whole area that we've noticed, even the neighbors as they were putting up their fence. The augur would come, and clay tile would be spitting out of it." Fox says she disclosed the dump when she sold the property to a developer in 2003. Repeated phone messages left for the developer, J-Reh Inc. were not returned Monday or Tuesday and no one appeared to be at the company's address. Dumping on your own land is against the law now, but it wasn't back in the 1970s, when much of this trash was put in the ground. Legal or not, though, Dyer says the county should not have allowed his home to be built on a dump. "I don't think they did the right thing, especially if they knew about it and was using the land. That should have been disclosed to somebody," Dyer said. Several months ago, it all began with a plan. Brian Dyer and his wife, Tracey, just wanted a pool. Instead, they ended up with mounds of trash. "This was kind of her dream home when we built it," Dyer said. "Now, we have a dream dump in our backyard. More of a nightmare."
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