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Sunday, Feb 19, 2017
Local News

Homeowner covers up surprise backyard landfill

LAKELAND - After 14 weeks of staring at mounds of trash in his backyard, Brian Dyer decided to put the garbage back where it came from — in the ground. "If it's under the house, then we certainly have bigger issues, but for now I can let grass grow back over the hole and I can mow over it instead of it taking hours." Dyer's trouble started when he hired a company to install a pool for his four kids. It took contractors just a few hours to unearth an underground dump used by a previous landowner. The garbage dated back to the 1970s. The builder and Polk County say they had no idea the junk was there. That means the trash is Dyer's problem. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said it's Dyer's responsibility to take care of it.
Removing the trash could cost thousands. DEP first told Dyer that his neighbors outside the subdivision, many of whom have wells, were at risk for water contamination from the trash in his yard. With the garbage disturbed, officials said, chemicals could seep into the soil and leech into the water supply. Dyer could be on the hook for not only hauling away the junk, but also installing underground watering monitors to test his neighbors' water, DEP said at the time. But Dyer learned late last week that only one well showed signs of contamination, and the levels were low enough that officials thought it had nothing to do with the old landfill. That means it's up to Dyer whether he wants to keep the junk or pay to get rid of it. For now, he says, he and his wife, Tracey, just wanted it out of sight. "We've got snakes and critters running around, and we're just trying to get back to some normalcy," Dyer said. Back in May, when Dyer had a company dig the hole for a pool, the contractor found washing machine tubs, tires, a lawn mower and a slew of household trash piled up in the yard of Dyer's 5-year-old home in the Oak Run subdivision. It turns out that Dyer's property was the site of a clay pit used by Polk County when it paved roads in the area. The pit became a swimming hole for neighborhood kids, but when it came time to fill it in, the private owners wanted to avoid the cost of hauling dirt so they turned it into a dump, said Brenda Fox, who sold the property to a developer in 2003. Fox said she disclosed this to the developer. The family even offered it to Florida Tile, which Fox said dumped the discarded ceramic material that Dyer dug up. Over the weekend, a contractor pushed the dirt back in the hole and covered it up with dirt. There are still many unanswered questions. There are new cracks in the side of Dyer's home and his neighbor's home. Dyer wonders if the cracks are related to the hole in his yard. Old-timers in the area say they remember the pit being the size of a football field, which means the dump could run underneath Dyer's house. To find out for sure, Dyer said he plans to X-ray the home. If that's the case, Dyer said he'll be taking a closer look at who's responsible, and who can help him clean up the mess. If the garbage is contained to the original holes dug for the pool, though, Dyer said he might just lay sod on top and give up on having a pool. He said he feels better now that he can't see the junk. Even so, he knows it's there, and still wants it gone.

sbehnken@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7804 Twitter: @TBORealtyCheck