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Owner of Kristina's Transit charged with illegal dumping
The DEP finds fuel and tar leaks, as well as batteries, used oil and 1, 500 tires within 500 feet of a water well, at the South Avenue site.
By CARRIE RITCHIE
Published June 6, 2007
ZEPHYRHILLS - A business owner was arrested and charged with polluting his own land, but the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said neighbors aren't in danger.
Paul John Bertram Jr., the owner of Kristina's Transit at 37638 South Ave. in Zephyrhills, was charged Monday with illegal dumping, discharge of pollutants and two counts of failure to comply with environmental rules. He was released Monday after paying $11, 000 bail.
Bertram, 44, could not be reached for comment.
The DEP inspected Kristina's Transit on March 20 with Bertram's consent, according to a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report. Authorities found a 750-gallon tank containing hardened tar that was leaking onto the ground. They also found a fuel tank with its line disconnected, allowing fuel to drain into the soil.
They said Bertram was storing solid waste, batteries, more than 1, 500 tires and used oil within 500 feet of a drinking water well and without the proper storage permit.
The DEP took samples of Bertram's fuel-stained soil and the State of Florida Laboratory confirmed levels of petroleum contamination that exceeded standards, said DEP spokeswoman Pamala Vazquez.
But Vazquez said neighbors shouldn't worry. She said finding high levels of petroleum at automotive businesses is common.
"The good news is petroleum isn't something to be concerned about, " she said. "Folks are safe to drink their water."
After facing criminal charges, Bertram could have to answer to a civil case and the DEP could make him clean up the site, Vazquez said. She didn't want to speculate on the amount of fines Bertram might pay.
Bertram has been arrested and charged several times in the past, including for a 2004 littering misdemeanor.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Carrie Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.