In 2014, DEP took enforcement action against South Palafox Properties, LLC., revoking their permit for the Rolling Hills construction and demolition (C&D) debris disposal facility located at 6990 Rolling Hills Road, Pensacola, due to compliance issues. The compliance issues included failure to apply soil cover, elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emanating from the facility, impacts to ground-water and surface water, and disposal of unauthorized waste. South Palafox petitioned the department’s action, and the case went before an administrative law judge. The administrative proceedings resulted in the issuance of a Final Order of Permit Revocation in May 2015. South Palafox was required to close the facility in accordance with state regulations.
South Palafox ceased operation of the facility, but failed to properly close it as required. Florida law provides specific technical requirements for closure to minimize infiltration and erosion, ensure the long-term integrity of the closed facility and minimize potential future environmental impacts. DEP took the necessary steps to secure the facility’s financial assurance – which is required to obtain a permit – and took over the closure of the facility. Through a competitive bid process, the department secured a contractor to perform the closure which began in late 2016.
Status of Facility Closure
A significant amount of on-site work for formal closure of the facility has been conducted. However, the contractor hired to complete the closure did not complete the work in accordance with the engineered design. At this time, the aspects of the closure that remain incomplete are primarily related to site stabilization, stormwater control and final cover.
The department has now selected Geosyntec as the construction management firm to oversee completion of the closure. Geosyntec has assessed current site conditions and is currently collecting and evaluating bids from construction subcontractors. The department expects to authorize the start of construction in June 2019.
Ground-water and Surface Water Impacts
The permit issued to South Palafox for the operation of the facility required that they install ground-water monitoring wells and submit quarterly monitoring reports to the department. This is required so the department can determine if and how activities at the site impact ground-water. Monitoring data revealed elevated levels of arsenic, boron, ammonia, iron and total dissolved solids in the ground-water monitoring wells. In July 2013, the facility was issued an order to implement a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) designed to treat the ground-water. The ground-water and surface water impacts were an enforcement count in the permit revocation.
South Palafox submitted semiannual ground-water monitoring reports as required by their permit until October 2016, and continued to submit quarterly monitoring reports in accordance with their RAP until May 2017.
The department conducted an on-site ground-water sampling event at the facility on March 1, 2019. Compared to previous monitoring data, some concentrations had increased and others had decreased. Overall, the most recent results were consistent with the previous ground-water data from the site.
The nearby Wedgewood Community is served by the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) public drinking water system. DEP identified the potable supply well locations closest to the facility, reviewed data and have found no impacts to drinking water from the Rolling Hills facility.
In addition, in response to heightened concerns by the community, DEP conducted independent end-of-tap sampling at the Community Center and nine individual residences within the community. The department analyzed the samples for 25 parameters, including constituents found in the ground-water at the Rolling Hills facility, and found no contaminants to be above the Federal Safe Drinking Water Standards.
DEP Continues to Work to Hold South Palafox Properties Accountable
On March 22, 2019, DEP filed a Motion for Contempt in Circuit Court against South Palafox Properties, LLC., for failing to comply with the Final Judgment. The Final Judgment required, among other things, that South Palafox continue remediation of the ground-water contamination in accordance with the approved RAP, and remediate all surface water quality exceedances.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.