JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man who worked for a portable toilet company is accused of illegally dumping hundreds of gallons of waste into a wooded area on the Northside.
On Jan. 11, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Crimes Unit arrested 48-year-old Samuel Jones, who was an employee of Floaters Portable Sanitation at the time, on two felony counts of commercial dumping and two misdemeanor counts of nuisance injurious to health.
Working on tips from neighbors, state investigators had been watching a wooded area off Cedar Point Road near homes that were under construction. That’s where, according to the DEP, Jones dumped about 700 gallons of raw sewage.
The city’s Environmental Quality Division was called out to collect samples of the raw sewage for testing and evidence.
The DEP said it’s working with the state Department of Health to clean up and contain the waste.
The arrest was announced Wednesday -- more than three weeks after the News4Jax I-TEAM started asking state investigators about the incident.
Jason Green, Floaters’ sales manager, told News4Jax that the company fired Jones after learning of the arrest. Green said he and the owners had no idea that Jones was dumping waste in a way investigators said was illegal.
“We were astonished,” Green said. “We couldn’t believe that he would think this would be OK by any standards.”
He said Jones had been hired less than two months earlier, with most of that time spent training.
“He was taught how to properly dump that, how to properly transport it, and this was never communicated as even an option for him to pursue,” Green said.
But this isn’t the first time the Jacksonville company has been under scrutiny.
In 2015, the I-TEAM obtained images from a whistleblower showing Floaters employees offloading untreated portable toilet waste more than a dozen times down a private drain meant for permitted RV septic tanks during special events only.
After News4Jax showed the photos to the Florida Department of Health in Duval County, it launched an investigation into the company and eventually issued a warning letter. JEA later ordered Floaters to pay $58,000 in penalties and fines for improperly loading waste in its sewer lines. News4Jax checked with JEA on Wednesday to see whether those fines were paid.
Green said he was serving overseas in the military at the time of the 2015 investigation and can’t speak to what happened then, but he did say: “We do want to send out a public apology .... that it’s even happened. But we’re doing our best to mediate the situation.”
As for Jones, he was released Jan. 12 from the Duval County jail while he awaits trial. The next hearing in his case is set for Feb. 11.
His former employer said the company is exploring civil action against him to recoup any penalties and fines.