TAMPA — Hillsborough County environmental regulators issued a warning Thursday to the company building the Tampa Riverwalk after workers were photographed illegally dumping waste concrete into the Hillsborough River.
“It’s a practice that’s not permitable,” said Andy Schipfer, assistant director for waste management at the county’s Environmental Protection Commission.
Inspectors from the EPC and Tampa were sent Thursday morning to the work site at Ashley Drive and Brorein Street, where crews with Johnson Bros. of Lithia cast the concrete segments that become the surface of the Riverwalk’s Kennedy Boulevard Plaza. The segments are mounted atop concrete pilings on the river bottom.
Around noon Tuesday, a passer-by photographed workers with Johnson Bros. washing out work buckets and emptying concrete from a large, crane-mounted bucket into the river by the work site.
The photographer gave the images and video to WTVT, Channel 13, which showed them to city spokeswoman Ali Glisson on Wednesday.
Glisson said the city alerted the EPC, state Department of Environmental Protection and Port Tampa Bay about the incident.
“They’ll be determining if there’s been a violation and if there’ll be a penalty,” she said.
Schipfer said the liquid concrete dissolved in the water, but doing so released the sand and small particles into the river, creating turbidity, which is a risk to fish and marine life.
Any penalty beyond a warning will depend on whether the incident was an isolated occurrence or part of a larger pattern, Shipfer said.
John Meagher, Johnson Bros. project manager for the Riverwalk, couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.
Glisson said the city had an inspector on site when the incident occurred.
“They saw it happen and they shut it down,” Glisson said. “To our knowledge, it hasn’t happened again.”
Johnson Bros. was banned from bringing concrete onto the site Wednesday until it could explain what happened, why and how it would be avoided in the future.
“We still are waiting on their formal response,” Glisson said.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn was traveling Thursday morning and couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.
Johnson Bros. officials have agreed to clean their equipment over land from now on, Glisson said.
“We prefer the do it over land,” she said. “They agreed that’s what they’ll do going forward.”
Glisson said Tuesday’s incident is the only such problem the city has had with Johnson Bros. The company built the Riverwalk segment beneath the Brorein Street bridge without incident.
“In our conversations with them, they’ve been apologetic,” Glisson said. “We’re trying to work with them and we want to remedy the situation.”
In the meantime, city inspectors are spending the day on the job site and taking pictures.
“We will be watching them,” Glisson said.