NEWTOWN, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wants Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans jailed for 30 days for violating a court order that requires him to clean up three landscaping and gravel facilities near Newtown and in Anderson Township.
State prosecutors filed a contempt motion on Monday, asking Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jody Luebbers to send Evans to jail and fine him up to $1,000 per day for past violations.
“We’re not going to be okay with him just flipping off the court and not complying with the order,” Yost said. “It’s really unusual to see somebody who’s just openly defiant like this.”
Yost sued Evans in March 2021 at the request of Hamilton County and the Ohio EPA, after more than two decades of violations.
Inspectors cited “reoccurring problems,” with buried waste, open dumping, scrap tires, illegal disposal of construction and demolition debris, and leachate runoff, at times into the Little Miami River.
Evans signed a settlement and agreed to pay a $550,000 fine. The consent order listed specific cleanup requirements to correct more than 20 years of environmental violations.
But Evans allegedly ignored parts of the court order, delayed the cleanup and still hasn’t done what health officials want.
This is the latest in a string of legal troubles for Evans, 61, a well-known entrepreneur on the East Side who built a landscaping empire from a high school job hauling mulch from a pickup truck.
Evans was released from federal prison in December 2021 after serving six months for a minority contracting fraud conviction, followed by several months of house arrest.
Yost is focused on Evans’ facility at 8361 Broadwell Road, where health officials estimate 10,000 cubic yards of illegal waste is buried. That’s equivalent to 4,000 full-size pickup truckloads of debris.
When cleanup began in early August, instead of covering up the unearthed waste as the court order required, Evans allegedly left it exposed to rain and wind. He also did not remove the debris from the site and or submit mandatory progress reports, according to the contempt motion.
“Look, this stuff leeches out into the groundwater, it is hazardous,” Yost said. “That’s why we have rules and regulations about how you dispose of these sorts of things. The community has a strong interest in making sure those laws are enforced.
In a statement to WCPO, Evans said he will, “vigorously oppose the contempt charges.”
“The agencies refused to approve Evans Landscaping’s proposed plan and imposed its own plan that is unworkable in the field. In addition, agency representatives have improperly classified clean hardfill as construction and demolition debris that they assert must be sent to a landfill. Evans Landscaping was attempting to resolve these disputes through good faith negotiations when the state filed its contempt charges,” Evans said.
Evans employs 250 at operations that range from sand and gravel, equipment rental, snow removal, soil and firewood, ready-mix concrete, tree services and stone works.
The part of Evans’ business that health inspectors have targeted repeatedly is the recycling of construction and demolition debris operation.
In the past eight months, officials have issued three violations against Evans including one on Aug. 18 by Anderson Township for a zoning violation at 4455 Mt. Carmel Road for extensive grading outside an area approved for mining.
“He thumbed his nose at the entire process. He thumbed his nose at the community. He thumbed his nose at the court,” Yost said. “We’re done.”
Cleanup at the Broadwell Road site is expected to take six months.
Evans’ crews dug 16 test pits under the supervision of health officials in November to determine the scope of the buried waste. Of the 16 test pits, they discovered that 14 contained waste.
Afterward, Hamilton County health officials sent a notice of violation to Evans for leaving piles of waste exposed for weeks, according to the December violation.
That violation led Evans to pay a $7,500 stipulated penalty, according to health department spokesperson Mike Samet.
Since November, health officials have rejected Evans’ proposed cleanup plans four separate times, citing concerns about how waste and construction debris will be removed.
“This looks like a classic open dump,” said Thom Cmar, a senior attorney with the environmental nonprofit Earthjustice who reviewed records related to Evans cleanup in May.
It does sound like we’re at a pivot point here where more needs to be done to move these cleanups along faster,” Cmar said.
If Evans breaches the court agreement, he may be forced to pay $300 to $1,000 per day until the violations are resolved, according to the consent order.
Meanwhile, at the 4229 Round Bottom Road site, where Evans corporate headquarters are located on 90 acres that abut the Little Miami River, the settlement requires that groundwater testing be done twice this year.
Prior, no groundwater testing had been done since June 2013.
In January, an environmental firm hired by Evans conducted groundwater testing from two new replacement wells and two existing wells.
Results from the two new wells showed higher than historic levels of ammonia, magnesium, sodium, sulfate, and chloride. Another existing well showed arsenic that exceeded the maximum contaminant level.
“Whenever you have pollutants like arsenic that’s a serious threat to human health showing up in levels that are significant, then there’s reason to be concerned,” Cmar said in May. “If there are folks in the area who are relying on private well water it’s going to be very important for them to get that tested as soon as possible. That is a serious issue.”
The Ohio EPA issued a notice of deficiency on June 1 because the groundwater testing report lacked the required information.
“The report was missing a discussion of all significant changes, including increased salinity, increased anoxic conditions, and order of magnitude increases in boron, sodium, chloride, potassium, and sulfate. Please provide the necessary revisions,” according to the deficiency notice.
As of Tuesday, the Ohio EPA has not received those documents, said spokesperson Dina Pierce.
“We’ve had enough … and we’re going to get his attention one way or the other,” Yost said. “I think that once he has a few days to cool his heels in jail and think about this, we will hopefully see him straighten up.
“But make no mistake about it, the state of Ohio is not going to go away,” said Yost.