Video Courtesy of Channel 8 News, Tampa
By Shannon Behnken
May 20, 2012
O'LAKES -- In the past six months, Gil Livingstone has replaced his
front lawn twice. He blames ammonia seeping from an underground landfill
he says wasn't fully disclosed by the homebuilder — one of the nation's
And that's not all.
"Dying plants everywhere,"
said Livingstone, president of the Suncoast Meadows homeowners
association. "Our kids playing on top of a field full garbage. …
Strange smells throughout their homes, or they're feeling sick for no
|Lennar dug up and moved a landfill to
make room for houses. About 50 of the 480 homes were built
on top of that land. The junk was buried under a soccer
field that is used by neighborhood children.
Since the first Tribune report,
state records obtained by the newspaper show some
monitoring wells have ammonia levels six times the state
standard. Homeowners say they are growing more frustrated.
"We want Lennar to remove all
the junk in the
fix our soccer field that is sinking and uneven, and fix the land
underneath homes," Livingstone said.
records show Lennar asked for advice from the state Department of
Environmental Protection when it discovered a 12-acre landfill on its
Pasco County property. The state advised cleaning it up.
did clean part of the property and built a pool and cabana
but no homes there. Junk it removed was relocated
elsewhere on the 12 acres, to the area that would later
become the soccer field.
The landfill was mentioned
in a brief statement tucked inside manuals provided to
homeowners at closing.
Lennar discovered the landfill was even bigger, stretching
into property slated for homes.
junk also was moved to the soccer field and a neighborhood park, but this
wasn't spelled out to buyers.
said parents worry about kids playing on the soccer field and won't allow
leagues to play there because the ground is uneven.
Florida's Department of Environmental
Protection says monitoring wells scattered throughout the neighborhood
show elevated levels of ammonia in the groundwater and at times, enough
methane to risk an explosion.
No one from Lennar agreed to be
interviewed, but a crisis management firm it hired from California says
Lennar offered in-home testing to all Suncoast Meadows residents.
Thirty-five homes were tested, Lennar said, and it found no reason for
Lennar says it did everything necessary to
clean up the property when it built the neighborhood and that the high
levels of ammonia are partly from natural sources, not just the landfill.
As for dying lawns, Lennar blamed poor
maintenance, adding that its scientists don't see a correlation with the
Livingstone does, though.
His home is just outside the footprint of
the remediated portion of the dump. The pool area is nearby and sewer
lines run down the street in front of Livingstone's house. He thinks the
ammonia is traveling down the lines.
"My neighbors and I all have this
problem in the front, but my backyard is fine," he said. "I can
grow vegetables in the backyard, but not grass in the front."
Meanwhile, Livingstone says he and his
neighbors are stuck with their homes because buyers run when they learn
about the landfill.
"I feel horribly ripped off,"
State Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey
Republican, said he plans legislation next year that would make it a crime
for a developer to sell a home without disclosing an old landfill. Fasano
also has asked for a state investigation.
"If there's not a problem, then I
challenge Lennar to go in there and give back people the money they paid
for those homes, take those homes and try to re-sell them," Fasano
"The bottom line is they won't be able
to sell them."