Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove

Blanche Park meeting next week to address health issues of toxic soil

 

If you go

What: Community meeting to discuss tainted soil and health concerns related to Blanche Park in Coconut Grove.

When: 6 p.m., Dec. 10, at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Hall in Coconut Grove. The meeting may also be viewed live on Channel 77 or on the city’s website at www.miamigov.com.


jenny.s.hiaasen@gmail.com

Miami will host a community meeting on Dec. 10 to address health concerns raised by toxic soil found at one of its three contaminated parks.

Results of a toxicology study conducted by state health workers at Blanche Park, a popular park for kids and dogs in the heart of Coconut Grove, will be reviewed at the meeting, set for 6 p.m. at Miami City Hall. Officials from the city and the county’s environmental regulatory agency will be on hand to answer questions.

The county ordered the city to test all 112 of its parks in September after angry residents began complaining that the city had failed to address contamination found at its old municipal incinerator in the West Grove more than two years ago.

City officials say so far only three parks located less than two miles from each other — Blanche, Merrie Christmas and Douglas parks — have turned up tainted soil as part of the review. The county ordered Merrie Christmas and Douglas parks closed while the city formulates a plan for addressing the elevated levels of toxic metals in the soil. Blanche Park remains open because officials say artificial turf and asphalt that cover most of the park acts as a protective seal.

Douglas Park, the latest park closed, is by far the largest, covering 10 acres just outside Coral Gables at 2795 SW 37th Ave.

The city used the land as a dump in the 1930s, assistant City Manager Alice Bravo said. But by the 1950s, it had become the site of the Dade Demonstration School, two graduates recalled. Robert McDougal, who attended the school, remembers playing in the park in the 1960s and hearing that the city used the park as a dump “when we were kids playing in the park.” Today, it is a neighborhood favorite, offering lighted tennis courts, basketball courts, rambling fields, playground equipment and picnic tables.

Ash hauled from the old municipal incinerator and dumped on the sites likely contaminated soil at all three parks. Records show that the city purchased Blanche, an old limestone quarry, in 1943 to use as a dump while Merrie Christmas was used to mine rock for area roads.

While city officials have said Blanche Park is considered safe because of the artificial turf, tests of the park’s groundwater have indicated high levels of antimony, a metal that can cause lung and heart disease. Recent tests showed antimony levels at 14 and 11 parts per billion, about twice the allowable level of six parts per billion.

Last month, results from wider sampling at Merrie Christmas Park on South LeJeune Road confirmed contamination likely caused by incinerator ash. Tests showed high levels of antimony, arsenic, barium, copper, iron and lead concentrated around the north, west and south edges of the park, according to a report the city submitted to the county on Nov. 14.

Three wells dug to test groundwater also showed high levels of iron. One well will be retested after a sample showed arsenic just above allowable levels.

In addition to reviewing the health study at the meeting, city officials say they will provide more information about sampling at parks and efforts to address the contamination.

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