Southeast Gainesville residents demand closure of Florence Dump

Press release from Sierra Club Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Today, Southeast Gainesville residents gathered in opposition to the continued operation and expansion of the Florence Recycling and Disposal landfill in their community. 

For more than 50 years, a construction and demolition (C&D) landfill has been operating in the heart of Southeast Gainesville, pumping out hazardous dust, noise, and pollution as little as 400 feet away from local residents. After the previous owner was shut down by numerous toxic waste violations and complaints from neighbors, Southeast Landholdings, Inc. (also known as Florence Recycling & Disposal) has been operating the site since 1994.

Rather than close the landfill, Florence Recycling & Disposal wants to expand it. An expansion was approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and is being challenged by residents who have petitioned the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). The expansion would allow the facility to double its current height, clearing the way for a staggering 70-foot mountain of crushed construction waste to be sited on an unlined parcel directly adjacent to schools, homes, parks, and churches in a predominantly low-income and Black community. This DOAH hearing is scheduled for the end of January.

Southeast Gainesville residents have been preparing to come before the Alachua County Commission to voice their concerns as the Special Use Permit for the Florence dump is set to expire on January 22, 2024. 

On December 6, residents learned that the landfill owner is seeking a Legislative Extension, which, if the County accepts unchallenged, would permit the landfill to continue expanding until January 22, 2028, with no further review process.

Johnell Gainey, Kincaid Loop neighbor/stakeholder, said, “Just tell us the truth and show us! Not just by talking, but by actually doing what you say is going to be done. Start giving us the same type of things every other in the community has. I have a dump less than 1,000 feet from my front door. The man on the Northwest side has a plaza with a Publix, McDonald’s, and an Anytime Fitness Center. I don’t want to trade places with him. All I want to do is, when I go out my front door, to see a community that has value, a community that’s an asset to the city, a community I can be proud of. Can that be a reality? Or is it just another dream?”

Suzmiché Morris, Kincaid Loop neighbor/stakeholder, said, “The county must stand up and exercise county authority over the executive ordered legislative extension notice filed by the Florence Landfill. It will be unjust and sickening for the Florence Landfill to operate another 4-6 years circumventing the steps to acquire a valid county permit. Their legislative extension issued through an executive order squashes neighborhood stakeholders’ plea for a landfill closure plan to be enforced on 1/22/2024.”

Brackin Camp, Kincaid Loop neighbor/stakeholder, said, “This is devastating news considering the fact that the Board of County Commissioners just spent two years developing and adopting an Environmental Justice and Equity amendment meant to support and protect neighborhoods from exactly what is happening in literally our Southeast Gainesville backyards. This dump is just feet away from people’s homes and farms, and across the street from historic Boulware Springs City Park and the Alachua County Sweetwater Preserve. This dump would never be sited for operation today, especially under these newly adopted amendments. The Board of County Commissioners must use their local power to stop the private owners of the dump from their shady dealings to go to any length to continue their operation at the expense of the health of the nearby neighbors. The environmental impact of this dump is proven to inflict harm on this fragile ecosystem, i.e., local plants, animals, air, and aquifer groundwater. This toxic landfill must be shut down immediately!”

  • So this construction waste collection facility has been at this location and in operation for over 50 years and then people who bought property next door to it and built the house are upset. This is typical crybox situation when they bought their house and or moved out next to this existing business, it sure didn’t bother them. This is the problem with people today. They want somebody else to be responsible for their own lack of intelligence. If you don’t want to live next door to a construction waste collection facility, then simply don’t buy the property next door. Sounds like these cry boxes are infested with the dumb-azz disease.

    • The C&D dump was never designed to be in operation this long. Initially it was a fill dirt business that was illegally dumping material. Once they were called out by the state for illegal dumping, the owner claimed hardship and was unable to clean up the mess they made. The county then offered them to fill the site with C&D waste to less than 2 feet above the initial grade. It now stands more than 35 feet above the grade and is set to double in height if it is allowed to continue.
      The number of homes in this neighborhood has not grown in all these years. The C&D waste that is disposed of here is primarily from areas outside of East Gainesville. Stop dumping in East Gainesville.

      • I find it very interesting the Sierra Club, which was originally established in 1892, didn’t concern itself with getting involved back in 1994, when it was discovered this site was being illegally used as a location for toxic material. Instead, a local family stepped up, risked their own money, time, investment, and bought the property and cleaned it up. They then made it a functioning business that has continued to help the local economy, and offered jobs on the east side of Gainesville. Basically what I am asking the Sierra Club is, where were you back in 1994, with your checkbook, to step up and clean up the toxic material? Instead, the Sierra Club decided to show up 40 years later with their checkbook to hire attorneys to fight the the people who bought the business/property 40 years ago and actually dealt with the toxic material. Good job Sierra Club Way to use money, donated to you, to hire attorneys to try to bully small local businesses which actually stepped up 40 years ago and did the dirty work of cleaning up toxic material, why you were nowhere to be found?.

      • Sierra Club speaks with forked lounge. This group supports the Biomass Boondoggle as well as lawsuits against GRU and its Customers. Only politics set there agenda , not the environment .

        • Only our liberal commission and the Sierra Club would support a wood burning, electrical plant that requires trees to be cut down, with gas powered chain saws, then diesel burning equipment load the logs onto diesel burning semi-trucks to be hauled to an incinerator to be burned to produce power and somehow these dumb-azz’ call that environmentally friendly. Yet when a family puts their money, time and resources on the line to clean up a toxic dump on the eastside of town, they want to huck rocks at them. I hate that this small family business, which is actually providing employment on the east side, is going through this but we all need to wake up go to the Commission and support them. God only knows who is next on the list.
          Vote out any Commissioner that takes part in crushing this small family business that has cleaned up East Gainesville/Alachua County and has provided good employment on the eastside for 30 years.

      • Why is it ok for government to have landfills? You’re ok with government killing the environment and putting garbage in low income areas? Also the government landfills take ALL garbage, you know the kind like wet trash( house hold) batteries,tires, appliances, bio hazard waist, oil, asbestos, fuel waist, lead, carpet ( does not degrade easily) ect. Florence ONLY takes clean construction debris, such as wood, nails, floors, drywall, tile, general construction debris. Infact if you ever go to their shop they actually separate all the non degradable items like plastic buckets ( they get recycled), concrete ( gets recycled and re used as crushed concrete for driveways), paint cans (gets recycled and taken to a different location not owned by Florence), wire (copper gets recycled), aluminum ( gets recycled), any toxic material gets taken to the county, they don’t accept carpet ( doesn’t break down) , batteries ( toxic to the environment), lead, oil, bad fuel, wet trash, bio hazard waist like the government landfills do. So logic would dictate that you would actually be praising Florence for doing such a great job recycling material, ( after all it’s in the name Florence “recycling”). Why not go after people and government who are actually causing issues such as, GRU who has the highest utility rates in the state most people can’t afford, GRU who has the most corrupt management ever, GRU biomass plant that is literally causing deforestation, or the old turpentine plant off 6th st that has been tainting ground water for decades, or the developers that the city commission approved to build high rise apartments in the traditionally black low income areas, or all the out of town people moving into low income areas gentrifying the area making affordable housing areas now unaffordable, you know the area the one where most houses are 50k but they are building houses across the st for 300+k. Seems like at the end of the day you are more upset about capitalism and a small family business making money than the environment and the people.

      • What are you not upset about other environment issues? FWC sprays toxic chemicals into our lakes and water ways to kill aquatic vegetation. That has a direct link to our aquifer. The don’t say gay bill is terrible put your energy behind that. But the Florence’s do a great job providing jobs and quality services to our community.

        • See even a person who supports Hillary (God bless their heart) is still smart enough to realize this small family business is run by great people and provides a quality service to our community! !!!!!

  • I’m not seeing any proposal in this editorial as to what happens to the current waste and where folks are supposed to go if this were to go away, and also the costs involved for cleanup, etc. Closing this is not the solution, it would be a trade-off for something else. Anyone from the Sierra Club Florida have a comment on what they would recommend?

    • Alachua County staff made a presentation earlier last summer where they shared that the county had more than 20 years of C& D disposal without the use of the Florence Dump.

      • The county has a disgusting dump also on the east side of town mind you, that excepts all trash. It smells some terrible and is in WAY worse shape than Florence will ever be. I’m curious where does the county dispose of their trash? It’s acceptable for the government to have a dump but not a private citizen? Strange you guys are ok with government.

  • I have zero compassion for the residents.

    Don’t live next to a landfill.

    Now let’s wait for Cornell to pander to the residents for votes.

    • No need to worry about Cornell, he won’t win the next primary with the new single member districts.

      • Oh he is in high gear – leading the charge for free phone calls at the jail. It’s bizarre how he’s sooooo concerned about that right now after being in office 10 years.

        Which county commisioner district residents make up the majority of residents of the jail?

        Yep, Haile Plantation isn’t going be able to provide him votes next round.…..

        • Hate to break it to you Marcus but Cornell has never and will never receive a vote from me or any of my friends or family. I’ve known him for over twenty years and learned very early that he only does things that will benefit him and his family. So rather than lecturing to us who live in Haile Plantation you might want to lecture to those who voted for him from your neighborhood.

  • I’m honestly just trying to understand the situation. Florence website says their physical address is 3222 SE Hawthorne Road, which is north of the Road behind a wooded screen, nothing else appears nearby except maybe 3 houses ~1000 feet away. Boulware springs is ~2 miles away as the crow flies. Is there a Florence dump at a different location?

    • Enigma you a correct. That is the location. The Seirra Club is well known to give half-truths, falsehood, and outright lies. That is a good question, in the earlier comments, where was the Seirra Club back in 1994 when the toxic waste was discovered?

  • Funny, 99% of the residents that ACTUALLY LIVE near the land fill love the Florence’s. The ones who make a huge deal about it are these out of town wannabe eco warriors who like to cause a ruckus. Where do you propose we throw waist? In the ocean? In the wealthy part of town where the most tax income is generated? Or out in what is mostly country serving a great service to our community. Landfills are heavily regulated by DEP and EPA plus by local government. They are constantly tested for environmental issues. I’m curious what the quote hazardous dust clouds are being produced by? It’s CCD clean construction debris normal building materials so is your house toxic? It’s the same material your homes are built out of. Is there any real documentation on environmental impact, is there any actual scientific evidence that there is significant harm being done? I can answer that it’s no, there isn’t this is all rumors and lies coming from hardcore liberals that just want something to cry about. This landfill has not had any issues for over 30years and now all of the sudden it’s an issue give me a break, go cry about something else.

  • A 70 foot high pile of garbage? This is a great idea. Alachua County Tourist Development folks can bring in thousands of out of town visitors with clever marketing of “See Mount Trashmore, the eighth wonder of the World. Alachua County will be famous.

    • Just needs Marketing you are behind the times, as usual. We already have what you described it is called City Hall and The Board of County Commission Offices.

    • I challenge you to go find the landfill. I promise you, you will never see it. It is well hidden and off the beaten path. The guy leading charge on this is some crazy liberal nut case from out of town just trying to make a name for himself. He is not actually concerned about the environment if so he would be calling to remove all land fills, not just this one. Instead he encouraged people to use the county dump, why? The government still have landfills, why is he not up in arms about the government landfills? They are still in low income areas.

  • I live near the landfill and am very concerned for the health of the hundreds who live near by. Drywall becomes harzardous when it decomposes and can leach into groundwater (landfill has no liner) or become airborne.
    For Enigma: the Hawthorne Rd location is a sorting site to divert things from going to landfill. The actual landfill is at 3003 SE 15th St. But neighbors have seen trucks not stopping at the sorting site but going straight to the landfill with who knows what hazardous materials.
    The Sierra Club had no reason to fight this in 1994. The special use permit spelled out that it was a 5 year plan to close it by 1999. But the county kept rubber stamping permits and 30 years went by until the neighbors had had enough.
    Those organizing to close it are not against the Florence’s or this private business. We are against the LOCATION. It should not continue in the middle of a residential area or near important waters: Boulware, Paynes Prairie. It is now time to right this wrong!
    Also: homes in this area are affordable to rent or own so stop telling low income working class folks to just go live somewhere else! I didn’t even know the landfill was there, you can’t see it from 15th St.

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