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MW Horticulture ordered to do clean up

October 31, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

A North Fort Myers Horticulture company has been ordered to start moving mulch debris by Nov. 7 and be finished by Dec. 17, or face fines of $200 per day.

Chief Hearing Examiner Donna Marie Collins on Wednesday handed the order to MW Horticulture, which has been dealing with smoldering mulch fires at Interstate Park for months, created from debris collected from Hurricane Irma last year.

In a brief, five-minute ruling, the examiner found that MW Horticulture & Recycling violated code when they tried to grind the pile at their location and, as a result, will have to move the pile under the supervision of the Bayshore Fire Department.

"The accumulation constitutes a danger to the public health, safety and welfare due to fire hazard," the examiner ruled. "It's removal in a timely manner would be in the public interest.."

The examiner ruled it must all be gone by Dec. 17 or the company will face fines. There will be another hearing on that date to determine if the company is in compliance.

The question now is where the debris can be moved.

Denise Houghtaling, president of MW Horticulture, was emotional at times as she objected to the ruling.

"The ruling is not the best for the community. Our experts stated that opening the pile would cause more fires," Houghtaling said. "We're going to try our best to move it and we need to figure out where to transport it to. No facility will take burning debris."

Houghtaling said that if that pile is opened up, it will start another fire. She said there had never been a code issue until after Irma.

"If the county had let us just grind, we wouldn't be here. What they have done to our reputation is wrong," Houghtaling said, her voice breaking up. "They didn't give us the opportunity to do the job properly."

Fires have been recurrent at the facility, with neighbors complaining about the smoke and odor.



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