North Miami

North Miami tells developer to remove contaminated material from Biscayne Landing site

The 194,000 cubic yards of contaminated crushed rock at the Biscayne Landing development site has to go, the North Miami City Council decided Tuesday.

The council voted unanimously to require developer Oleta Partners to remove the fill material containing levels of aluminum that exceed Miami-Dade County environmental standards.

Michael Tillman of Oleta Partners told the council that the developers’ lawyers have advised that the approval they received from the county’s Regulatory and Economic Resources Department to use the fill material means it can remain.

Oleta Partners spokesman Josh Oberhausen on Thursday said he didn’t know what the developers plan to do next.

The cost to remove the fill material could reach into the millions of dollars as the developers would not only have to pay for the removal but also to find a landfill that accepts contaminated material, according to Joe Celestin, the city’s Biscayne Landing site manager.

The fill material is about 194,000 cubic yards of construction material the developers bought for about $1.7 million from a subcontractor at the Brickell Citi Center construction site. Oleta Partners wanted to use the material to fill lakes at the development site, a decision that combined with site’s history as a landfill raised the concern of residents, the council and the city’s Biscayne Landing site manager.

“My job is to protect Chapter 24 as the city’s consultant,” said Celestin, the site manager, referring to the county’s environmental rules. “I was not ready to approve any amount of contaminants.”

In addition to the approval Oleta Partners received from the county regulatory agency, they requested an exception from another county agency, the Environmental Quality Control board, to use the fill material regardless of the high levels of aluminum. The board approved.

Celestin, in spite of approval the developers received from the county, ordered that no additional material be brought to the site until further testing is done. The remaining 400,000 cubic yards the developer needs has stayed put in Brickell, and the company paid for independent testing after an order from the City Council. But the testers reached the same conclusion as the county agencies: the material is not dangerous to human health.

This did not stop residents from worrying and lining up at City Council meetings to make sure they were heard.

“It’s of particular concern because it’s near a school site,” Susan Luck, a public health nurse who teaches environmental health at the University of Miami, said during the Oct. 12 meeting. “What happens over time as those children age?”

Krish Jayachandran, professor of environmental microbiology at Florida International University, also considers the effects of the compounds in years to come and the sheer number that exist at the site, in the general area and the material.

“We don’t know the long term effects,” Jayachandran said in an interview on Thursday. “Individual compounds may not be harmful but they’re not looking at multiple compounds. They should definitely look at combined effects.”

Jayachandran, a soil scientist with a doctorate in soil microbiology, said because the site has so many compounds it is unknown the kind of reactions happening in the soil system under wet conditions.

“It may be creating a complex system,” he said. “I’m sure it can have a negative effect.”

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