Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Parks Follow-up
A South Florida park is being given a relatively clean bill of health. This follows a Seven News investigation that revealed high levels of arsenic on some of its picnic tables. But despite the government's report, not everybody who works there is convinced it's still a safe place to play. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On The Case.
WSVN--With summer finally here, you can be sure plenty of families will be playing at Markham Park in Sunrise.
But this former park employee and this current park employee are worried about conditions there.
They think the park made them sick.
Jay Trzeciak even has test results that show high levels of arsenic and lead in his system.
Jay Trzeciak: "Oh, I was sick to my stomach. I didn't realize I had that - any of that in my system at all. Did in scare you? Oh yea."
John Johnstone: "All of a sudden I went blind."
John Johnstone lost his vision temporarily.
Today, doctors believe he is disabled because of health problems related to chemical exposure at the park.
After both men told us their stories - 7 News tested for arsenic on picnic tables at Markham Park.
Dr. Richard Maas: "The arsenic levels that we observed coming off the picnic tables that were tested in the South Florida area were higher than what we see in a national average. One of the tables was about five times as high."
Months before our tests, the National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health also tested Markham Park and its workers.
It maintains the park is a relatively safe place to play.
Niosh reports that at the time of the visit - last july - "... Arsenic did not present a health hazard."
It took blood samples from workers - but it did not test a single picnic table... And it did not test either Johnstone or Trzeciak.
Yet Niosh recommends the county get rid of arsenic treated lumber in its old picnic tables as a precaution.
That work actually started after our original story.
Dr. Richard Maas: "The concern is - you would get arsenic on your hands and then through direct or indirect hand to mouth contact - you would ingest that arsenic."
John Johnstone: "It makes me feel good because other people are not going to be exposed to what I was exposed to."
The government evaluation also found an accumulation of lead dust in the target range area of the park which is used by law enforcement officers and the general public.
And it did find low levels of lead in the blood of 4 of the 11 park workers who agreed to be tested.
Jay Trzeciak: "They found lead on some people's hands and I can't figure out why they don't see there's a problem."
Both Trzeciak and Johnstone say they did work at the range and sometimes handled chemicals like pesticides and instectides.
The NIOSH also recommends more training for workers dealing with chemicals and better storage of those chemicals.
Eric Ginnis: "We're worried about what's going on out there."
But for Trzeciak and Johnstone it may not enough.
Attorney Eric Ginnis says his firm is looking into the men's cases and may take legal action against Broward County.
Eric Ginnis: "We're actively pursuing experts in the field."
Carmel Cafiero: "Meanwhile - the director of Broward County's Parks Department doesn't want to be interviewed about all this. He turned us down for our first story and he's turned us down our request for an interview again. He did say the old picnic tables - those with wood treated with arsenic have now been removed."
If You Have A Story For Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE