DERM: Contaminated soil at local parks should be removed, contained
COCONUT GROVE, Fla. (WSVN) -- There is even more cause for concern tonight after toxic trouble was uncovered at a South Florida park, as it turns out, the contamination is worse than originally thought.
The best course of action to deal with contaminated soil at several City of Miami parks will be to remove and/or contain the toxic substances, environmental officials said.
The Department of Environmental Resource Management issued their recommendations Thursday, after results from recent soil samples taken at Blanche Park in Coconut Grove showed higher levels of toxic chemicals than originally detected. They have also found microscopic levels of these contaminants on the ground water.
In a letter to City of Miami administrators, DERM officials gave the following suggestions as to how to best deal with the parks' soil contaminants, which they said, are located two to four feet from the surface:
- Remove the contaminants
- Contain the contamination by capping it underground with special engineering materials
- A combination of these steps
Dr. Samir M. Elmir of the Florida Department of Health said, "Either approach will be acceptable as long as the engineering control will be permanent, to prevent direct exposure."
DERM officials had ordered additional testing in August after contaminated soil was found at a nearby construction project. They cautioned the parks' regular visitors that the findings should not be cause for concern.
However, some parents said, they would rather not take any chances. "Lead can still seep through," said Coconut Grove father Josh Jimenez.
A recent report shows that more than 30 times the normal levels of arsenic, lead and other potentially harmful toxins were discovered in soil samples from Blanche Park. Officials said they will be examining the parks' ground water more closely.
Before Blanche Park was built in the 1960s, the grounds were used as a city dump for ash. Officials said the park has remained open because it has an artificial turf that acts as a protective layer.
Janice Anthony believes her 5-year-old girl was exposed. She said her daughter has played at Blanche Park for years, even before the turf was installed. While most metals were found two to four feet below, the study revealed lead six inches from the surface in one spot. "We got the test, she's high in lead," said Anthony.
Among the other Miami parks from which DERM officials collected soil samples were Lincoln Park, which has been completely cleared, and Merrie Christmas Park, which has been completely closed off for several weeks since there is no protective turf at that park.
Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said, "What we do know at Merrie Christmas Park is that we are going to have to do some substantial remediation, which means putting some good distance of barrier between any of the ash or the contaminants, and what would be a new playing field out there."
The commissioner says Merrie Christmas Park is about a month behind schedule when it comes to sampling in comparison to Blanche Park.
A concerned park visitor said the government should act quickly on DERM's recommendations. "I think they should do whatever is best to make it clear and healthy," she said. "We pay a lot of taxes for that."
The City of Miami has 30 days to tell DERM how they are going to proceed.
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