NEWTOWN, Ohio — Less than three months after Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans signed a $550,000 settlement over environmental violations that have spanned more than two decades, health officials say he has violated the court order.
Hamilton County health officials sent a notice of violation to Evans on Dec. 16. more than a month after crews dug test pits at his Broadwell Road facility in Anderson Township to determine the scope of the buried waste.
As part of the settlement, Evans had agreed to containerize the dug-up construction waste and properly dispose of it. But he allegedly left piles of waste exposed for weeks, according to the violation.
If Evans is found to have breached his agreement with the state, a judge may force him to pay $300 to $1,000 per day until the violations are resolved, according to a consent order signed by a Hamilton County judge on Sept. 29.
“If you break a court order, you could be thrown in jail for contempt,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in an October interview. “We are going to be eagle eyes on Mr. Evans. I assure you that if we find he is not following that agreement to the letter, we’re going to be back in front of that judge saying, 'Judge, hold him accountable.'"
In an interview with WCPO on Dec. 14, Yost said, “We’re watching, and we would hold him accountable.”
Health officials estimate that 6,000 to 10,000 cubic yards of illegal waste may be buried on a five-acre portion of the 8361 Broadwell Road site. That means a full-size pickup truck, which typically holds 2.5 cubic yards, would have to make as many as 4,000 trips to haul away the waste.
Yost sued Evans last March, at the request of Hamilton County and the Ohio EPA. County records showinspectors cited “reoccurring problems,” with the burial of waste, open dumping, scrap tires, illegal disposal of construction and demolition debris, and leachate runoff, at times into the Little Miami River at three separate sites.
Evans, 60, is a well-known entrepreneur on the east side who built a landscaping empire from a high school job hauling mulch from a pickup truck. He now employs 250 at operations that range from sand and gravel, equipment rental, snow removal, soil and firewood, ready-mix concrete, tree services and stone works.
“I don’t want to drive people out of business if we don’t have to. If we can convince them to follow the law, clean up this mess, straighten 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 needs to come down harder on this guy — it will.”
The part of Evans’ business that health inspectors have targeted repeatedly is the recycling of construction and demolition debris operation.
While Evans agreed to clean up the construction waste and debris, he still maintains that he did not break the law, according to the consent order.
A spokesman for Evans 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 in accordance with 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 native soil or water was reached. Health department officials and the Ohio EPA supervised the digging on Nov. 9 and 10. Of the 16 test pits, they discovered that 14 contained waste.
Then health officials made return visits to see if the waste had been removed.
“It was observed that all excavated waste material from the 16 test pits was on the ground and had not yet been containerized or removed from the property. Mr. Evans verbally confirmed no waste material had been removed from the property, and operators were separating large items (rocks, scrap, metal, tree stumps, etc.) from excavated waste material,” health officials wrote on Nov. 14.
When officials returned on Nov. 23, “it was observed that a portion of the excavated waste material had been removed,” taken to Newtown Fill and labeled as “dirt,” instead of construction and demolition debris. “No tipping fees were collected on the loads. The receiving facility was advised to make the necessary correction and to categorize these loads as (construction and demolition debris) and include these loads in tipping fee calculations,” according to the violation notice.
When health officials returned on Dec. 6 and Dec. 16, large piles of the remaining waste still had not 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 Decemberafter 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 illegally operating businesses on Mt. Carmel Road land that is zoned for open space and agriculture.
In 2014, Evans agreed to pay $300,000 in fines to settle a complaint with the Ohio EPA over air pollution violations. He also agreed to a $100,000 tree-planting project to serve as a natural windbreak for dust and emissions from his stonework, gravel and sand operations in Hamilton and Clermont counties.