The Florida Highway Patrol is set to investigate claims of overweight trucks carrying coal ash to a private Osceola County landfill this week, according to agency officials.
State troopers received at least two anonymous tips last week about possible overweight trucks entering the JED Solid Waste Facility east of St. Cloud, said Kim Montes, FHP public information officer.
“We will be going out there soon and reviewing that,” Montes said over the phone Tuesday morning.
Concerned residents began posting photos and videos on social media last week of dump trucks filled to the brim with a gray, ashy substance that sometimes spilled over the sides of semi-tarped vehicles and onto the roadway.
“There’s concerns about how it’s being transported,” said resident Tahitiana Chaffin, a concerned citizen who visited the landfill Friday afternoon to protest. “There’s toxins in coal ash, and it doesn’t seem like they’re doing everything possible to safely transport it.”
More than 45,000 tons of coal ash has already been dumped at the JED landfill, according to county officials. And more is on the way.
Coal ash is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. Next year, Puerto Rico is looking to phase out coal-based energy production completely, though Applied Energy Systems may fight the new law since its contract with the island’s power company is good until the end of 2027.
Osceola government gave a green light to Waste Connections – private owner and operator of JED - to import around 200,000 tons of coal from now until Dec. 31, though county officials say there’s no limit in place to stop the company from taking in even more this year.
The contract amendment appeared on the April 1 meeting agenda at the last minute with no input from residents or discussion from county commissioners prior to approval.
The JED landfill meets all Florida Department of Environmental Protection standards and regulations, but the move still has citizens upset, environmentalists troubled and federal representatives voicing opposition to the deal.
Montes said troopers will conduct random inspections on trucks, but she was unable to disclose what time this week the investigation will occur.
Officers will evaluate the safety of the situation by reviewing everything from blinkers to logbooks to make sure incoming vehicles are compliant with state and federal laws, Montes said.
“If they’re not, we will cite them and take it from there,” she said.
Squaring up violations may fall either with the truck driver or the trucking company. JED landfill is not typically liable for such issues, Montes said.