Three men reportedly seen unloading tree branches onto a U.S. 1 median in Tavernier now face felony illegal-dumping charges.
The site, at the Burton Drive intersection at mile marker 92.7, previously was used as a temporary debris-storage site but it “had been completely cleaned and cleared of debris,” Officer Michael McKay of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wrote in his account of the Saturday arrests.
Other piles of trash appeared on the site after a final notice issued by Monroe County that as of Oct. 28, no additional storm debris could be placed on the state highway’s right of way in most county areas outside of the Lower Keys.
McKay wrote that he was on routine patrol around 12:30 p.m. when he saw three men removing branches from a work trailer towed by a pickup truck.
“Posted in all local newspapers and radio stations are advisories that post-storm debris roadside pickup has ended,” McKay noted. “Additionally, there are portable message trailers in the roadway median stating: Illegal Dumping is a Felony.”
The three defendants apparently drove by one of the lighted, flashing signs at mile marker 89 while headed north from a Lower Matecumbe Key house with their load of buttonwood tree branches.
Since the men were paid as landscapers, charges were filed as illegal dumping for commercial purposes, a felony.
Jardi E. Palma Gonzalez, 38, of Key Largo was charged with two counts of illegal dumping. Booked on single counts were Norberto Reyes, 42, of Key Largo and Pedro Cruz Angel, 34, of Homestead. All have been released from jail pending court action.
The Florida Department of Transportation, which oversaw the cleanup of debris along U.S. 1, said the agency was ending its emergency waste-hauling contracts in the Keys effective Oct. 27.
“The deadline to put debris on county roads or U.S. 1 has passed” in the Tavernier and Key Largo area, Monroe County said in a Nov. 21 notice. “FDOT has told the county and Keys municipalities it has completed picking up debris along U.S. 1. The county and municipalities cannot pick up debris along U.S. 1 until it works out jurisdiction with FDOT in order to get reimbursed by FEMA.”
Debris is still be collected from county roadsides in the Lower Keys are from mile marker 16 to marker 40.
“If people are still cleaning up their yards or removing debris, they need to make sure where they know where to take the debris for proper disposal,” said Deputy Becky Herrin of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
All Monroe County trash-transfer sites now accept storm debris at no cost if delivered by residents cleaning their own property. Professional haulers and landscapers will be charged. Transfer sites are on Blimp Road on Cudjoe Key, at Long Key at mile marker 68 and on North Key Largo at 11100 County Road 905.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206