ESCAMBIA COUNTY ? Law enforcement agents with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently arrested Herdeypal Bhatti, 35, former owner of the Ramada Inn Bayview in Pensacola, for improperly storing/disposing solid waste from his business.
?The improper disposal of solid waste 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 Escambia County Code Enforcement officers, DEP law enforcement agents were able to solve this environmental crime.?
Bhatti is charged with 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. He was also charged with Disposal of Waste at Other Than a Permitted Solid Waste Management Facility, a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Bhatti ran the Ramada Inn Bayview in Pensacola from September 2007 through September 2009 and directed his employees to dispose debris such as mattresses, box springs, furniture and other business-related items on an adjacent piece of private property located at 7501 Scenic Highway. The private property was accessed from the motel property, without the property owner?s permission. Bhatti was transported and booked at the Escambia County Jail on March 16, 2010, and was released on $10,000 bond.
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. Special Agents investigate environmental resource crimes and illegal dredge and fill activities, 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 business hours.
For more information about DEP?s Division of Law Enforcement, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/law.