MARION COUNTY – A law enforcement agent with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently arrested Manuel Estrada, 34, employee of A-1 Gibson Septic Tank Service, for improperly disposing more than 150 gallons of raw sewage and violating the Florida Litter Law, a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000.
“The improper storage and disposal of raw sewage can harm the health of humans, wildlife and the environment,” said DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director Henry Barnet. “Thanks to the timely notification and assistance in investigating this crime by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Unites States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and the Florida Department of Transportation, DEP law enforcement was able to quickly solve this environmental crime preventing further degradation to the environment.”
The investigation began when DEP law enforcement received a request for assistance from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, in reference to a complaint they received in which the suspect was observed dumping raw sewage in the Ocala National Forest. The investigation revealed that Estrada dumped approximately 150-200 gallons of raw sewage from his company’s septic truck to lighten its weight in an attempt to free the truck after being stuck on a dirt service road in the forest. Estrada admitted he was fearful of losing his job for getting the truck stuck and for having to call a towing company to tow the truck at the company’s expense. Estrada also faces charges by the Unites States Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Environmental crimes are violations of state or federal environmental laws that could impact public health and the environment, such as illegal dumping or improper disposal of used oil. Signs that an environmental crime has taken place could include corroded, leaking or abandoned waste containers; fish kills; illegal debris dumping in a natural area; or foul smelling or unsightly discharges or visible sheens on the ground or water body.
Illegal solid and hazardous waste disposal is a primary focus of DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement as illegal dumping can adversely affect underlying aquifers, which are the source for more than 90 percent of the state’s drinking water supply.
DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement is responsible for statewide environmental resource law enforcement, as well as providing law enforcement services to Florida’s state parks and greenways and trails. Division personnel from the three operational bureaus patrol state lands; investigate environmental resource crimes; and respond to natural disasters, civil unrest, hazardous material incidents and oil spills that threaten the environment.
To report an environmental crime, wireless customers can dial #DEP. Callers can also report environmental crimes to the State Warning Point by calling (877) 2-SAVE-FL (1.877.272.8335). General environmental inquiries should be directed to DEP district offices during normal business hours. For more information about DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/law.
"The improper storage and disposal of raw sewage can harm the health of humans, wildlife and the environment."
Last updated: March 05, 2010