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Homeowner's underground dump runs under house

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 01:22 AM
LAKELAND -

Brian Dyer's nightmare just keeps getting worse. First he discovered a dump underneath his backyard. Now, ground-penetrating radar show the junk is under his house, too.

And if that's not bad enough, moving the trash around and then covering it back up caused a sinkhole to open up behind the house.

"The dump is under the living room, the master bedroom and all through the shower and tub area," Dyer said. "It basically goes right down the middle of the house, with dump on one side of the house but not the other."

The Dyer family's dilemma began this summer when they tried to give their four kids a swimming pool. A few hours after contractors started to dig they hit metal. Just four feet under the ground they found washing machine tubs, electronics, tires and household trash.

Sarasota-based Geoview used the radar to detect material under the ground inside and outside of the house. The radar shows the junk goes down at least 12 feet. The company dug outside, at the base of the home, to confirm the radar results. Junk was found just two feet down.

That has Dyer questioning who is responsible and who knew about the garbage before the house was built.

The builder, Southern Homes, told the Tribune in June it didn't dig deep enough to discover the garbage and had no idea it was there. President Greg Masters said the land was prepped for construction by a land developer. Masters did not return calls for comment on the radar tests.

"At this point it would certainly seem that the developer knew and that the builder knew," Dyer said.

Richard Steele, of Environmental Site Assessments, is consulting with Dyer on how to deal with the dump.

"You would think that someone building a house of this size in the neighborhood that the foundation would be at least 2 feet down," Steele said.

Dyer discovered the garbage in May. The pool contractor left the trash piled high behind the 5-year-old home in the Oak Run subdivision.

No one Dyer called had any answers or offered help. The Tribune found that the property was the site of a clay pit used by Polk County when it paved roads in the area.

The private owners filled the hole in with garbage in the 1970s, said Brenda Fox, who sold the property to a developer in 2003. Fox said she disclosed this to the developer, J-Reh Inc. No one from the company was able to reached for comment.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection tested the soil this summer and said it's not hazardous. That means it's Dyer's responsibility to clean it up – or leave it in the ground.

Dyer and his wife, Tracey, grew tired of looking at the junk and covered it back up in August. They said they didn't want to haul all the trash away only to find it's under the home.

Steele, a geologist, said he thinks the junk needs to go because it's settling, causing the soil to be unstable, and creating sinkholes. Removing it from underneath the house, though, may be impossible. The sinkhole is about the size of truck tire and about a foot deep.

"He would have to install sheet pilings while they're excavating there to keep the house from falling in the hole," Steele said.

Dyer says the radar information is bittersweet.

On one hand, he's glad to know what he's dealing with. But he has no idea how to proceed.


sbehnken@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7804 Twitter: TBORealtyCheck

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