Life next to sinkhole the pits for Florida residents
Developer denies responsibility
October 23, 1996
for toxic waste found under homes
Web posted at: 4:30 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Robert Vito
MIRAMAR, Florida (CNN) -- Four months after telling CNN they
would "do whatever it takes" to correct problems caused when
a buried trash pile became a sinkhole, a Florida construction
company apparently has done nothing to compensate homeowners
affected by the watery pit in front of their homes.
The football field-size sinkhole began opening last March in
front of 20 houses in the Hampshire Homes subdivision of
Miramar outside Miami. At the insistence of Broward County
officials, builder Lennar Homes returned to the site and
began removing mangled tires, twisted pieces of metal and
other debris from the pit.
In all, Lennar excavated 250 truckloads of trash and
construction debris, but admitted no wrong-doing.
In a story that aired on CNN last June, Christine Barney, a
spokeswoman for Lennar, reassured homeowners, who were
concerned about their property values, that they had nothing
to worry about.
"We are here and ready to do whatever it takes to fix their
problem," Barney said in June, including buying back the
Lennar refused comment for this story, but homeowners in the
307-unit subdivision told CNN this month that there is still
plenty to worry about. And, residents say, they ran into a
brick wall trying to get Lennar to buy back their homes.
"They would not come forward and say 'give us your keys,
here's your check and here is your settlement,'" said
homeowner William Holterby.
And the sinkhole is not the whole of the problem.
When the first dump site was discovered, residents
immediately suspected that more trash was buried in the
subdivision -- and they were right.
A second dump site was discovered a few weeks ago by
engineers hired by attorneys for the homeowners. Conducting
ground-penetrating radar tests, the engineers discovered a
pit containing dishwashers, toasters and "all kinds of
stuff," said Dave Hewitt of Subsurface Detection
The state of Florida says the dumps are legal as long as the
materials are non-toxic -- but tires and other items found in
both dumps are considered toxic by state regulations. Lennar
admits to burying construction debris at Hampshire Homes, but
says it doesn't know how the toxic debris ended up in the
Florida's attorney general's office has stepped into
the dispute, ordering Lennar to surrender all documents
relating to homeowner complaints about sinkholes, trash pits
and buried debris at building sites it has developed since
Lennar Homes says it has nothing to hide and is fully
cooperating in the investigation.
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