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Abandoned Drums: The Most Common Type of Environmental Crimes in Dade County

Environmental crimes are those offenses involving the unlawful disposal, handling and transportation of potentially hazardous waste and other materials. Such white collar crimes are a big issue in the state of Florida, which has significantly protected wildlife and ecosystems. Here in Miami-Dade County, the most common environmental crime is the abandonment of drums, which are containers that could contain substances and waste of an extremely hazardous nature. Because of the seriousness of these crimes, those found guilty of abandoning drums and other similar containers can face fines and jail time. Common substances discovered in abandoned drums include:

  • Detergents, soaps and other cleaning supplies;
  • Paint products including paint thinners;
  • Greases and oils;
  • Organic solvents;
  • Pesticides; and
  • Corrosive liquids.

Abandoned drums present significant environmental risks because they can contain toxic chemicals and other materials that must be properly disposed of in order to prevent potential hazards to the South Florida community and environment. When not properly disposed of, abandoned drums can present significant risks to Dade County and its surrounding area’s drinking water. Oftentimes abandoned drums full of potentially hazardous chemicals are left in ditches, empty lots, on the side of the road, or concealed in abandoned warehouses and other structures. When this occurs the presence of these abandoned drums is often not public knowledge. Upon discovery, it is difficult to determine how to properly dispose of the container because it may be unknown what substances are contained in the discovered drum. This difficulty can present significant challenges and economic costs to the South Florida police department and other relevant agencies.

The reasons vary for why drums are abandoned instead of being properly and safely discarded. However, these drums are typically abandoned in order for the owner to avoid paying the costs for proper and safe disposal of the substances in the drum, or because the substances in the drum were illegal, and should not have been in the possession of the parties who eventually abandoned the drum. It is the duty of the Miami-Dade County Emergency Response Coordinated Unit, in conjunction with the Miami Dade County Police Department’s Environmental Investigation Section, to investigate environmental crimes such as drum abandonments. If a drum abandonment has been sufficiently proved, the accused offender can be prosecuted by a Florida court. If a person is found guilty of an environmental crime like drum abandonment, they can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, and will be required to pay the cost of cleanup for abandoned toxic materials.

Proper Drum Disposal

In order to avoid legal liability for drum disposal, your best option is to properly dispose of any drum containing potentially hazardous or toxic materials. There are drum recycling facilities throughout the state that will dispose of drums that contain residual toxins, chemicals and other substances. The recycling facility will either conduct a field screening or chemical analysis in order to separate drums into various categories. From there the residual chemicals in the drum are consolidated, and the drum is then rinsed and tested for potential leaks. After this the drum is reshaped and repainted for future use. Or, those drums that are determined to be unusable are then crushed and disposed of and/or used as scrap metal.

Has a private or public party accused you of drum abandonment or any other environmental crime? If so, please contact JeffreyS. Weiner, P.A. in Miami, Florida today for a consultation. We can help you understand your options, and craft a defense unique to your individual circumstances.

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