LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Lakeland city officials sprang into action last week after a woman posted on social media about a massive illegal tire dump into Lake Parker.

Courtesy: Sharon Bauman

“It was sickening. It literally made me sick to my stomach,” said Sharon Bauman, who lives near Lake Parker.

Bauman said she and her husband enjoy walking around the lake this time of year to see the alligators.

Instead, over the long 4th of July weekend, she spotted dozens of tires bobbing in the water.

“You could tell they were fresh. The air bubbles were still going up from where the tires were trying to settle in the water,” she said. “That was one of the reasons why it made me angry was because an alligator could get trapped in one of the tires. They could die.”

She posted pictures on a local crime watch page and somebody from the city saw it.

While Tropical Storm Elsa was headed toward Tampa Bay, city workers pulled out 48 tires from Lake Parker, with limited resources.

“It’s absolutely the most egregious case of illegal dumping that we’ve dealt with in the two years since we implemented the hotline,” said Brian Rewis, Lakeland’s interim director of Community and Economic Development. 

Tires are an environmental hazard, Rewis said.

“As tires hold water, they also become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other unpleasantness,” he added.

Also, if trash that is illegally dumped sits out too long, it can attract more dumping.

Source: Lakeland Police Department

The Lakeland Police Department has launched an investigation to find out who dumped the tires.

The culprit, or culprits, could face felonies.

“A business dumping something that they would otherwise pay to dispose of legally and correctly is considered ‘commercial gain’ because they didn’t have to pay to dispose of it as they normally would and that’s what drives it from a misdemeanor to felony,” said Rewis.

Polk County officials have been working to combat illegal dumping in Poinciana as well.

Recently, two men were arrested, accused of dumping thousands of pounds of concrete and massive tree stubs in Poinciana, respectively.

Bauman, meanwhile, has a message for anyone thinking about dumping.

“Grow up. Have respect for your community. Your community would be there for you. Be there for your community. Please let’s keep our lakes beautiful. Our city is called Lakeland for a reason,” she said.

People in Lakeland who see an existing illegal dump or an illegal dump in progress can call the hotline at (863) 834-DUMP.