Dueling manure haulers cause stink over where to dump Wellington waste

Allegations of improper manure hauling from Wellington into Loxahatchee Groves have led one business to shutter a manure-transfer site and officials to deal with a perennial concern in the western communities — the specter of illegal manure dumping.

And what could be a case of he-said, he-said has boiled over into an issue between the municipalities and a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigation.

Justin Hickey has owned and operated his hauling business, JH Hauling Inc., for about 28 years. He reached out to Wellington and Loxahatchee Groves last month to say one of his competitors was taking manure from Wellington to dump on a site in Loxahatchee Groves, a violation of both town’s rules. In Wellington, permitted haulers may only take manure to pre-approved sites. And in Loxahatchee Groves, haulers cannot bring waste into the town from outside.

WELLINGTON READERS: Sign up for The Post’s weekly newsletter for Wellington news

Hickey told officials he had followed Wellington Agricultural’s trucks from the village to a site on the northwest corner of Okeechobee Boulevard and B Road in Loxahatchee Groves. He demanded the company’s permit to haul in both towns be revoked.

Officials also received emails from Melody Krell, who said she lives in Loxahatchee Groves and works for Hickey.

“Every day I have witnessed, followed, and taken pictures and video of a Wellington Agricultural … dumping huge mounds of horse manure they pick up in wellington and drop at a vacant warehouse,” she wrote.

Krell did not return multiple requests for comment. Hickey told The Palm Beach Post she does not work for him, but that he asked her for help following the Wellington Agricultural trucks.

Wellington Agricultural: All disposal by the book

Wellington Agricultural’s crews were not taking manure from Wellington’s to the site, said Jose Gomez, the company’s owner for 15 years. Rather, all waste on the property came from clients in Loxahatchee Groves, he said. Gomez and the property’s owner received a permit from Loxahatchee Groves to operate the facility and use it to transfer manure from within the town, per Loxahatchee Groves’ rules, town manager Bill Underwood confirmed.

RELATED: Mystery stench prompts Wellington to launch investigation

“I have at least 40 to 50 farms in Loxahatchee Groves that I pick up manure from,” Gomez said.

With the town’s network of dirt roads, Gomez said it was easier, less expensive and safer for his drivers to pick up manure in smaller trucks, then transfer the manure at the Okeechobee Boulevard site to a larger truck that then would make the trek to the Solid Waste Authority’s waste-to-energy facility in West Palm Beach.

“We’re trying to become a green company and do it environmentally correct,” he said.

In response to Hickey and Krell’s complaints, Wellington asked PBSO to launch an investigation. The agency has two commercial motor vehicle, or CMV, units in Wellington and one in Loxahatchee, PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera.

In late February, one of those CMV units spent a day following Wellington Agricultural trucks. Two of the vehicles went to US Sugar, and another went west on State Road 80 past Lion Country Safari, Lt. Craig Turner told Underwood in an email.

“As of right now we have not found anything illegal regarding this incident,” Barbera said, adding that the CMV units “are constantly looking for these kind of violations.”

Gomez said this week he is cleaning up manure from the Okeechobee Boulevard property at the order of Loxahatchee Groves code enforcement. Then, he said, he will only use the site for his trucks.

“I’m done with Loxahatchee Groves,” he said.

Where to put all the waste in the West?

With the massive influx of horses to Wellington and surrounding communities during the equestrian season, officials have been challenged to find creative solutions for the tons of waste — about 50 pounds per horse, per day, according to one estimate.

About a dozen haulers are permitted in Wellington to remove the many mounds of waste, said Mike O’Dell, Wellington’s project manager who oversees manure haulers and the permitting process. Each hauler provides the village with an approved destination for the waste. If the hauler is caught deviating from that approved site, their permit can be revoked.

O’Dell pointed to a hauler this year who was caught improperly dumping manure at a site north of the village. The hauler was given a chance to clean up the unapproved site, or lose his permit.

“I had letters on my desk revoking his permit, but then I got the proof that he had cleaned it up,” O’Dell said.

One of Krell’s claims in her emails to officials was a lack of action by O’Dell, saying “he has given us the run around for three years, and not once has anyone even gone to the location to check on it.”

O’Dell said the location only came to his attention about three weeks ago. Gomez said he has been operating there since obtaining the permit from Loxahatchee Groves about a month ago.

Declining to address Krell’s allegations specifically, O’Dell pointed to the time and money Wellington has spent trying to curb illegal manure dumping.

“Who else has put CMV officers on the road?” he said. “Wellington is the only entity that has sent them to do that.”

Hickey, who lives in Loxahatchee Groves, insists there is a lack of enforcement — and that hurts his business. He said he loses about 10 percent of his business each year to unscrupulous manure haulers in Wellington.

“This isn’t a game for me,” he said. “I love Wellington. But I can’t tolerate illegal dumping in my own backyard in Loxahatchee Groves.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Fire department surprises 3-year-old with birthday party after guests cancel at last minute
Fire department surprises 3-year-old with birthday party after guests cancel at last minute

The Harrisburg Fire Department in North Carolina surprised a 3-year-old with a birthday party after several of his classmates canceled Sunday.  Melissa Reid said she received several text messages the morning of her son's birthday party from parents, letting her know her son's classmates couldn't make it.  >> Need something to...
West Palm church rally joins nationwide action against gun violence
West Palm church rally joins nationwide action against gun violence

Around a hundred souls packed the Greater Antioch Missionary Baptist Church Sunday to join a nationwide call for laws to stop gun violence. The event, part of the third annual Concert Across America to End Gun Violence, began shortly after 4 p.m. in the city’s Pleasant City neighborhood, a section of town all too familiar with gun crimes. This...
Tiger Woods: Some fun facts to know
Tiger Woods: Some fun facts to know

Tiger Woods ended a five-year victory drought when he won the Tour Championship on Sunday. >> Read more trending news  By finishing two shots ahead of Billy Horschel with a 1-over-par 71 and an 11-under-par 269 for the tournament, Woods earned his 80th career win on the PGA Tour, second only behind Sam Snead’s 82. It was Woods&rsquo...
BREAKING: Belle Glade man killed in one-car wreck
BREAKING: Belle Glade man killed in one-car wreck

A man was killed when his vehicle went out of control and slammed into a palm tree on Saturday evening, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Delga Yoelvy, 44, was driving northbound on Main Street when he lost control of his Nissan Titan. The vehicle ended up in the median before sliding sideways. According to the sheriff&rsquo...
NEW: Man struck and killed by vehicle in suburban West Palm Beach
NEW: Man struck and killed by vehicle in suburban West Palm Beach

A pedestrian was killed when he was hit by a vehicle on Friday night in suburban West Palm Beach, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Darryl Knight, 51, of suburban West Palm was killed when he was hit by a Nissan Versa at the intersection of Okeechobee Boulevard and Donnell Road, just north of the Westgate neighborhood...
More Stories