A special Action 16 Investigation brings the story of a single mother who thought she bought the perfect house for her two daughters who loved to swim. Then she learned what was buried beneath the in-ground pool when the snow melted.
A classified ad led Jeannie Pavlovich to look at the home in Vandling, a small Lackawanna community north of Carbondale.
“Spacious, well cared for home,” read the ad, and one line caught her daughters’ attention. “Beautifully landscaped yard with in-ground pool.” Since her daughters are avid swimmers, Pavlovich thought she bought a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood with a backyard pool.
“What more can you ask for?” read the last line of the ad.
Pavlovich couldn’t ask for more when she bought the house from Ernie and Carolyn Smith in December, 2009.
Everything was fine for a few months.
Last April when the snow finally melted, Pavolich and her daughters decided it was time to get the pool, which sat in the backyard, ready for a summer of swimming. They noticed a small piece of chicken wire sticking out of the ground. What Pavolich was found after tugging on the wire was shocking.
“It was a landfill!” exclaimed Pavolich. “It went about four or five feet deep and around the whole pool, which was 20 by 40 foot pool.”
She took home video of the discovery. A receipt shows a construction company hauling three tons of trash from her backyard.
Pavolich still remembers the details. “About 7,500 pounds of glass which was beer bottles,” she recalled. “There about 350 pounds of cans, all beer cans and then there were about 220 bags of regular garbage, there was scrap metal, old grilles, old furniture.”
Also buried were 220 tires and smaller items ranging from laminated copies of the Smiths’ daughter’s wedding announcement, to their own Polaroid pictures of a tropical vactation several years ago.
“They have moved to Florida,” said Pavolich, “and they pretty much wanted to wash their hands of all this.”
The mess was also a health hazard.
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection cited the Smiths for solid waste violations, which could lead to a $25,000 fine.
Jeanie Pavlovich is suing the Smith’s for $50,000, to clean up the garbage and remove the pool. Her lawyer claims he tried to settle with the Smiths.
“Mrs. Smith indicated that, ‘Well your client should not complain. We really came down on the price,'” said attorney Ed Kaushas.
Newswatch 16 left messages on the Smith’s answering machine at their Florida home. They have not returning calls.
Neighbors said they never saw the couple bringing trash into their neighborhood backyard, even though there seemed to be enough for a small landfill. The Smiths lived at the home for 22 years.
“I’ve known him for all those years,” said neighbor Matt Urbas, “and I could never imagine he could do something like that.”
“My girls still ask, ‘When are we going to get another pool?'” said Jeanie Pavlovich. “I could not believe that somebody could do that to another family knowing there are two little kids involved.”
Pavlovich wishes her home inspector discovered the buried trash before she bought the house, but even her lawyer said the problem was so well concealed, a routine inspection would not have uncovered it.