County: New violations at Evans are 'reoccurring problem'

2022-04-26 08:25:21 By : Ms. Kate Zhu

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Hamilton County public health officials filed new environmental violations against two Evans Landscaping facilities in Anderson Township April 12.

The violations for open dumping, illegal disposal of construction and demolition debris and operation of a waste facility without a license are the latest in what state and county officials describe as a reoccurring problem with facilities owned by Doug Evans for the past 20 years.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sued Evans in March 2021 at the request of the Ohio EPA and Hamilton County, accusing him of a long history of environmental violations.

“This is something that really was a concern to us,” Yost told WCPO last December. “It’s not just about clean air and clean water. The stuff you put on land has a tendency to get into the air and the water, and particularly groundwater.”

Filing civil complaints is a last resort, and Yost said his office tries to work with citizens to get them into compliance. But that didn’t work with Evans.

“We were just getting no cooperation at all and we had to go to court,” Yost said.

That case is set for trial next January before Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jody Luebbers.

In a statement to WCPO, Evans’ attorney, Andrew Kolesar, wrote, “Evans Landscaping always attempts to comply with environmental laws and regulations and to address agency concerns when they are raised. Evans Landscaping is engaged in good faith negotiations with the state to resolve the state’s current enforcement action and has taken or will take the necessary corrective actions to address the alleged violations.”

Evans, 59, is a well-known entrepreneur on the east side who built a landscaping empire from a high school job hauling mulch from a pickup truck. He now employs 250 at operations that range from sand and gravel, equipment rental, snow removal, soil and firewood, ready-mix concrete, tree services and stone works.

But the part of his business that health inspectors have targeted repeatedly is the recycling of construction and demolition debris operation.

Despite the lawsuit and threat of $10,000-a-day fines, officials say Evans continues to violate state laws.

Ten months after Yost filed suit, county health inspectors cited him for improperly storing old tires and municipal solid waste during a Dec. 2, 2021, visit to his facility at 4229 Round Bottom Road in Newtown.

During inspections on March 29, county inspectors cited Evans for new and continuing violations related to running an illegal landfill operation and open dumping at facilities on Mt. Carmel Road and Broadwell Road.

County inspectors first spent 30 minutes at the Evans corporate headquarters on Round Bottom Road March 29, and then arrived at the Broadwell Road site where “incoming loads of soil were observed actively being dumped and a D6-bulldozer was immediately pushing the loads covering the leading edge of the fill, much of which had been covered. Staff walked the remaining exposed toe of the slope.”

Inspectors took photos of an artificial tree, plumbing supplies, piping, wiring, vinyl siding, plastics, a lead acid battery and small particles of drywall, roofing, insulation and other items “mixed with dirt and fill disposed within the fill,” at the Broadwell Road site, according to the violation notice.

During the inspection, Evans told an employee to remove the unacceptable material and send photos of the cleanup to the health district. County officials had not received that evidence as of April 12, according to the notice of violation.

At the Mt. Carmel Road site, inspectors on March 29 found that open dumping violations from December still had not been corrected three months later. They also discovered ground asphalt shingles spread on a gravel pad, as well as dumping of metal, wood and plastic.

“Another part of Evans Landscaping business provides customers with an opportunity to place clean hard fill (such as concrete, brick, and stone) from construction and demolition projects at locations that can then be used for productive purposes and which also preserves landfill capacity for solid wastes. Evans Landscaping regularly inspects such clean hard fill areas to ensure that inappropriate materials inadvertently delivered by customers are removed and properly handled,” Kolesar said.

State officials accuse Evans of repeated violations at three of his facilities in Anderson Township: Evans Gravel on 78 acres on Mt. Carmel Road; 8361 Broadwell Road, where several warehouses are located on 36 acres zoned for manufacturing; and 4229 Round Bottom Road, where Evans corporate headquarters are located on 90 acres that abuts the Little Miami River, according to court and auditor records.

Since 2014, county officials have conducted over 22 compliance inspections at the sites and issued at least 19 notice-of-violation letters.

Those county health records show that inspectors cited “reoccurring problems,” with the burial of waste, open dumping, scrap tires, illegal disposal of construction and demolition debris and leachate runoff, at times into the Little Miami River.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency sent a referral letter to Yost in June 2021, asking him to file a complaint against Evans for violations.

This isn’t the first time that the EPA has targeted Evans.

In 2014, Evans agreed to pay $300,000 in fines to settle a complaint with the Ohio EPA over air pollution violations. He also agreed to a $100,000 tree-planting project to serve as a natural windbreak for dust and emissions from his stonework, gravel and sand operations in Hamilton and Clermont counties.

Meanwhile, Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District officials are investigating a complaint that an Evans truck may have illegally dumped a heavy stream of liquid into a storm drain in a neighborhood where new homes are being built.

Federal prison officials released Evans from prison in December, allowing him to serve the remainder of his prison sentence for minority contracting fraud through home confinement until November 2022.

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