Report: Unlicensed contractor maintained septic tanks where 3-year-old drowned

Bruce Park is where 3-year-old Amari Harley drowned in a septic tank.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Florida Department of Health (FDH) report says a contractor who worked at Bruce Park in Arlington was not properly licensed. 

The inspection was conducted shortly after 3-year-old Amari Harley drowned at the park upon falling into a septic tank in October.

An inspector with the FDH in Duval County states she contacted the city of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department who said that the city hired Environmental Remediation Services, Inc. (ERS, Inc.) to perform inspections and maintenance of all lift stations (septic tanks) for public areas. 

According to the inspection report, the FDH contacted ERS, Inc. An employee told the inspector: "they do not have any licensed persons... on staff" in response to questions from the inspector about ERS, Inc. having a licensed contractor or plumber on staff performing city contracted work. 

Kay Harper-Williams, attorney for Harley's family, says the inspection report calls into question whether the city was negligent and knowingly hired a contractor who was not properly licensed. 
 
"That is of great concern to us," Harper-Williams said. "It should be of great concern to everyone in this community, every taxpayer in this community because those are tax dollars that pay any contractor that the city hired."

First Coast News reached out to the city for answers. 

"The administration has advised that neither the Department of Health or the City of Jacksonville has any information that supports that unlicensed contract activity has been performed at Bruce Park," a spokesperson with the city said. "Yet, we are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding this tragedy to solve problems where they may exist and hold persons accountable."

We asked the city for documentation that proves ERS, Inc. is properly licensed, as well as additional questions about the bidding process for this specific contract, and whether ERS, Inc. is still under contract with the city. We are waiting to hear back. 

Harper-Williams said accountability is key in preventing this tragedy from happening again.

"We are looking to the city of Jacksonville and requesting that changes be made in the way the city conducts its business related to parks-- septic tanks, inspections," Harper-Williams said. "Because this, as I have said before, truly could've been anyone's child."

 The inspection report also states the FDH informed the city that ERS, Inc., "was not licensed in any way to maintain the OSTDS on any of their properties." 

The inspector also demanded that the city replace the plastic lids that were on the tanks at the time of Harley's death with certified concrete lids made specifically for those type of tanks. 

According to the report, on October 25, another company, American Septic Contractors, Inc., informed the inspector that they "replaced the plastic lids on the septic tank and dosing tanks."

Harper-Williams said the family is considering all of their legal options against the city and any companies that inspected the tank. 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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