NEWTOWN, Ohio – Less than three months after Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans signed a $550,000 settlement for environmental violations spanning more than two decades, health officials say he violated a court order.
Hamilton County health officials sent Evans a violation notice on Dec. 16 more than a month after crews dug test pits at his facility on Broadwell Road in Anderson Township to determine the extent of buried waste.
As part of the settlement, Evans had agreed to containerize the excavated construction waste and dispose of it properly. But he allegedly left piles of trash exposed for weeks, according to the violation.
If Evans is found to have violated his agreement with the state, a judge could order him to pay $300 to $1,000 a day until the violations are resolved, according to a consent order signed by a Hamilton County judge on Sept. 29.
“If you violate a court order, you can go to jail for contempt,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in an interview in October. “We will be eagle-eyed towards Mr. Evans. I assure you that if we find that he’s not following that agreement to the letter, we’re going to get back in front of that judge and say, “Judge, hold him accountable.”
In an interview with WCPO on December 14, Yost said, “We’re watching and we’re going to hold him accountable.”
Health officials estimate that 6,000 to 10,000 cubic yards of illegal waste could be buried in a five-acre portion of the 8361 Broadwell Road site. This means that a full-size pickup truck, which typically holds 2.5 cubic meters, would have to make up to 4,000 trips to haul the trash.
Yost sued Evans last March, at the request of Hamilton County and the Ohio EPA. County records show inspectors cited “recurring problems”, with landfilling, open dumping, scrap tires, illegal disposal of construction and demolition waste, and runoff at times into the Little Miami River in three separate areas.
Evans, 60, is a well-known East Side entrepreneur who built a landscaping empire from a high school job hauling mulch from a pickup truck. It now employs 250 in operations ranging from sand and gravel, equipment rental, snow removal, soil and firewood, ready-mix concrete, tree services and stonework.
“I don’t want to put people out of business if I don’t have to. If we can get them to follow the law, clean up this mess, clean up and play fair with the rest of the community, then … everybody’s better off,” Yost said. “But make no mistake about it, we’re done playing games. And if the long arm of the law has to come down harder on this guy – it will.”
The part of Evans’ business that health inspectors have repeatedly targeted is the recycling of construction and demolition waste.
While Evans agreed to clean up the construction debris and debris, he still maintains he did not break the law, according to the consent order.
An Evans spokesman did not return several requests for comment, but in a statement to WCPO in October, he said, “Evans Landscaping has taken or will take the necessary corrective actions to address the alleged violations pursuant to the consent order.”
The consent order sets a very specific timeline for the cleanup:
At the 8361 Broadwell Road facility, crews used an excavator to dig 16 test pits at least 25 feet deep or until local soil or water is reached. Health department and Ohio EPA officials supervised the excavation on November 9 and 10. Of the 16 test pits, they found 14 contained debris.
Health officials then made return visits to see if the residue had been removed.
“It was noted that all excavated waste from the 16 test pits was in the ground and had not yet been containerized or removed from the property. Mr. Evans verbally confirmed that no waste material had been removed from the property and operators were separating large items (rocks, scrap, metal, tree trunks, etc.) from the excavated waste,” health officials wrote on Nov. 14.
When officials returned on Nov. 23, “it was noted that some of the excavated waste had been removed,” sent to the Newtown Fill and labeled as “dirt,” instead of construction and demolition debris. “Tip fees have not been collected for cargo. The host facilities have been advised to make the necessary correction and categorize these loads as (construction and demolition waste) and include these loads in the tipping fee calculations,” the violation notice said.
When health officials returned on Dec. 6 and Dec. 16, large piles of leftover debris had not yet been placed in containers or removed, according to the violation notice.
This is the latest in a string of legal troubles for Evans.
Evans was released from prison last December after serving six months for minority contracting fraud, followed by several months of house arrest.
Last month a Clermont County judge and Union Township zoning officials accused Evans of businesses operating illegally on Mount Carmel Road land that is zoned for open space and agriculture.
In 2014, Evans agreed to pay a $300,000 fine to settle a complaint with the Ohio EPA over air pollution violations. It also agreed to a $100,000 tree planting project to serve as a natural buffer for dust and emissions from its rock, gravel and sand operations in Hamilton and Clermont counties.