No one questions the arrest of used cooking oil truck driver Peter Rodriguez for illegal dumping.
The problem now is in determining what it was that he actually left behind on a vacant, tree-filled lot in Central Florida last week and if he was following company orders as he attests.
Last Tuesday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported that Rodriguez, 50, was arrested for dumping 10,000 gallons of used cooking oil onto a corner lot in Davenport owned by Walgreens and Duke Energy, according to the Miami Herald.
Rodriguez, who was charged with two counts of felony commercial dumping, later told authorities that he didn’t dump cooking oil, but rather a worthless sludge-like substance that’s produced from processing used cooking oil.
He says that material came from his employer, Brownie’s Septic & Plumbing, which runs a used cooking oil refining plant in Orlando about 25 miles northeast of Davenport. Rodriguez said he was following company orders when he dumped the substance.
“The suspect stated that he knew it was wrong, but had to do it to keep his job and feed his family,” a Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrest report reads.
Representatives from Brownie’s visited the lot and told authorities that the substance there resembled used cooking oil.
“The representatives stated that it does not make sense because that’s how they make their money and referred to it as ‘liquid gold,’” the arrest report states.
Depending on how it’s processed, used cooking oil is used to produce biodiesel and renewable diesel. Rodriguez told authorities that he was paid to deliver used cooking oil to Brownie’s processing plant in Orlando. However, this time he said he had orders to dispose sludge from the plant. Rodriguez lives about two-and-a-half miles away from the lot.
Whatever the substance is, ACT Environmental is calling it Polk County’s largest waste spill. Polk’s Fire Rescue Hazmat team and the Florida Department of Environment Protection also responded to the scene which is across the street from a CVS pharmacy and a Publix supermarket.