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Press Office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 16, 2010
CONTACT: Dee Ann Miller, (850) 245-2112 or (850) 519-2898

DEP Agents Put the Fire Out on Crime

~Fire safety business owner charged with illegal disposal of extinguisher agent~

BREVARD COUNTY – Law enforcement agents with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently cited Deborah Ahl, 55, owner and operator of American Fire and Safety Inc., for improperly discarding an estimated 300 pounds of ABC fire extinguisher agent onto the ground and into the air at her residence in Cocoa. Ahl is charged with violation of the Florida Litter Law, a third degree felony punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

“Improper disposal of waste can jeopardize public safety, wildlife and the environment,” said DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director Henry Barnet. “DEP law enforcement agents, in conjunction with the investigation performed by Brevard County Fire Rescue, were able to solve this environmental crime.”

After being dispatched to investigate a report of a possible fire, Brevard County Fire Rescue found no fire upon arrival, but instead a yellowish cloud drifting through the air. After further investigation by DEP law enforcement agents, Ahl admitted to discharging the contents of several pallets of unserviceable ABC fire extinguishers onto the ground and into the air at her home, before subsequently taking the emptied fire extinguishers to a recycling facility for scrap metal. Ahl received $160.00 for the approximately 1,000 pounds of metal. Ahl was arrested on June 7, 2010 and transported to the Brevard County Jail on $2,000 bond. She was released on June 8, 2010.

ABC fire extinguishers are multipurpose dry chemical extinguishers filled with ammonia and phosphorus compounds. The use of it for its intended purpose can be extremely useful; however, the release of large quantities of this firefighting chemical directly into the environment can cause respiratory problems (irritation and infection) to humans as well as other living things. Additionally, the release of these chemicals in the presence of water can cause the accumulation of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients which can cause environmental issues, such as contamination in the soil and water. In addition, excessive nutrients in the water can cause algal blooms which, in turn, can lower the oxygen in the water, resulting in fish kills.

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

fire extinguishers

"Improper disposal of waste can jeopardize public safety, wildlife and the environment."

Henry Barnet
DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director

10–102

Last updated: June 16, 2010

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