Washington, DC — The federal government has filed formal notice that it will stop doing business with two controversial Florida environmental companies and their affiliates, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Under a complaint initiated by the U.S. Air Force, Big Wheel Recycling, Aztec Environmental, Inc., and their affiliates in Bay County would be barred from receiving any federal contracts for an indefinite period of time. The proposed action is based upon a number of unspecified legal violations.
“Big Wheel and Aztec are bad actors that should have been put out of business years ago,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former enforcement attorney for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “If the corporations are debarred from further government contracts, this Big Wheel will stop turning.”
Big Wheel, Aztec and their affiliates have 30 days to respond to the government’s proposed debarment before the ban goes into effect. Debarment means that the affected corporation or person is ineligible to perform federal and most state contracts, grants, cooperative agreements and certain federal non-procurement programs.
Florida PEER has filed complaints about groundwater contamination, illegal asbestos disposal and improper permitting of the waste disposal operation at the Big Wheel site. Later this week, the DEP Inspector General is expected to release a report about enforcement irregularities in the Northwest District Office that oversees compliance at the Big Wheel site.
PEER has also called for a grand jury investigation into a myriad of problems within the Northwest District Office, including the role of campaign contributions in hiring practices and the lack of enforcement actions at Big Wheel.
“It is all too typical for Florida state agencies to sit by and wait for the federal government to come in and do their work for them,” Phillips added. “There are two related issues behind the Big Wheel scandal; one is a pollution problem and the other is an integrity problem. Until integrity is restored to DEP enforcement, the pollution threats to Floridians will just get worse.”