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MW Horticulture fails latest compliance check

MW fire smolder file
Posted at 12:47 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 05:31:20-04

SAN CARLOS PARK, Fla. — MW Horticulture, the recycling plant that is the site of a fire that kept crews on scene for 10 days, and that continues to smolder, was cited Monday for continued non-compliance, according to San Carlos Park Fire officials.

The most recent inspection of the facility occurred on Friday.

"The fire chief has determined the facility is not in compliance and as a result, the Stop Work Order will remain in effect," the department said in a statement.

The stop work order will remain in place until the site is brought into compliance and smoldering has ceased.

Another inspection can be performed no earlier than Thursday, May 19, but it is ultimately up to the business to determine when it is ready for another inspection.

"We're working with them," said Alexis McLellan with San Carlos Park Fire. "We want businesses in our community to be safe."

Crews kept vigil at the site of the mulch pile fire for more than a week and a half, dousing flames, flare-ups and smoldering remnants with millions of gallons of water.

Officials cite "mismanagement" as the root cause of the most recent fire.

The company has been in a legal tug-of-war with Lee County since the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, when the company took in storm debris to be processed. In 2020, the county and the state Department of Environmental Protection sued after a pile of debris caught fire. The co-plaintiffs argued MW let the debris sit for too long; company owner Denise Houghtaling said they were accused of violating DEP when attempts were made to move the pile.

A judge eventually sided with Houghtaling and MW Horticulture in that case.

However, multiple fires have been reported at the same plant in the years since.