On Saturday, two men from Key Largo were arrested, charged with dumping a large amount of debris beside the highway on Grassy Key. The pile of dumped debris measured 40 feet long by 12 feet wide by 8 feet high and exceeded the felony amount of 500 pounds.
“If we see anybody dumping, anywhere, along U.S.1 right-of-way we are going to take action,” said Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay on Thursday.
He said that could be anything from a warning to a notice to appear to even an arrest. The charge could be a misdemeanor or even a felony if it involves big trucks and equipment.
“Frankly, it’s unsafe for motorists. There are huge piece of debris and boulders just feet away from the roadway,” Ramsay said. “And having big trucks stopped on the highway to load or unload debris is also unsafe.”
Marathon City Manager Chuck Lindsey issued a similar warning: “Anyone caught discarding or disposing of debris as of Nov. 28 in any right of way within the City limits of Marathon or along U.S.1 will be prosecuted.” Lindsey said city code enforcement officers will also be on the lookout.
Several areas of the Keys have completed debris removal on city and county roads — Key West, Stock Island to Baypoint, Marathon, Islamorada, Key Largo and Tavernier.
The announcement comes on the heels of news that the state Department of Transportation will be making one more pass along U.S.1. The agency’s contractors stopped picking up hurricane debris along U.S.1 at the end of October, according to Monroe County.
State Rep. Holly Raschein, who represents the Keys in Tallahassee, is credited with facilitating the contractors’ return.
“The governor has said we are open for business, and we are, but we need more help. The state is the perfect partner, and has been,” she said. “I am grateful that Secretary Mike Dew and his staff decided to revisit their decision.”
The warnings are explicit and direct.
“It’s been 80 days,” said Ramsay. “Everyone has had enough time to get their trash to the street and that includes snowbirds. If they haven’t been down yet to check on, or clean, their properties, that’s not everybody else’s problem. We need to clean up the Keys.”
County residents can still bring hurricane debris to any of the County’s three transfer stations for free disposal. And residents in the hardest hit area — from MM 16-40 can still put debris out at the curb on county roads only. Conch Key, Duck Key and Layton are awaiting the final pass.
Residents who spot illegal dumping are encouraged to call the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office at 305-289-2430 or 305-289-2351.