Miami Beach

High arsenic levels found in dirt on par-3 golf course in Miami Beach

High levels of arsenic were found at an old par-3 golf course in Miami Beach that is no longer being used for play.
High levels of arsenic were found at an old par-3 golf course in Miami Beach that is no longer being used for play. Miami Herald File

Soil being stored at the old par-3 golf course in Miami Beach has tested positive for high levels of arsenic and construction debris.

Miami Beach was stockpiling the dirt after receiving it from the sites of two major construction projects in November. The city piled the soil on the old course in the Bayshore neighborhood and planned to use the dirt for future public projects as a cheaper alternative to paying for new fill.

But after some initial testing, the city asked the county’s Division of Environmental Resources Management to further inspect the soil in January.

According to DERM, the soil showed arsenic levels at about four times the legal limit. The arsenic poses a low health risk because it would have to be ingested over a long period of time to cause harm.

In addition to the arsenic, the testing showed the soil contained construction debris, PVC piping, bricks, tile and rebar.

DERM told the city in a letter dated Feb. 19 that it could not use the soil and had to dispose of it.

“Therefore, screening and removal of solid waste is not an option, and disposal of the entire piles representing this material shall be properly disposed,” the letter reads.

The city got the dirt from the Florida Department of Transportation, which dug up Alton Road as part of its drainage and road-rebuilding project and had leftover fill.

The city also got fill from a luxury condominium construction site in Mid-Beach by prominent developer Alan Faena.

Contractors for both FDOT and Faena had reassured the city the dirt was clean when they delivered it. The contractors covered the cost of delivering the dirt, and the city says the contractors will pay for removing it.

Tuesday morning, public works director Eric Carpenter told the Miami Herald that the city is working on a plan with DERM to properly remove the soil.

“We’re working with DERM to see what they will be comfortable with,” he said. “Obviously, at the end of the day, we want do the right thing by everybody that’s involved. So we’re trying to dot our i’s and cross our t’s and make sure that everybody’s comfortable with where the material is going to be finally disposed of.”

Residents in the Bayshore neighborhood had noticed strong odors coming from the soil in recent months, and neighbor Michelle Cameron said that some complained of trucks rolling by at night to dump the dirt.

“A lot of neighbors were complaining because their houses were rattling in the middle of the night,” she said.

The Bayshore Municipal Golf Course findings of arsenic follow a well-publicized campaign that began two years to clean up high levels of arsenic and heavy metals found in seven Miami parks. In the end, the city of Miami tested all 112 of its parks. The toxins stemmed from contaminated soil underneath the parks, which had been built over filled-in quarries and landfills before there were stringent soil regulations.

In Miami Beach, the little-used par-3 golf course fell into disrepair years ago, and the city has plans to convert it into a passive park in the future.

According to a statement sent Tuesday afternoon from DERM, the Beach plans to completely remove the contaminated material.

“The City of Miami Beach reiterated during our meeting with them this morning that they intend to require the contractor to remove all of the soils from the site, including both the material impacted with solid waste and the grey sand and FDOT organic peat material,” the statement reads. “This option is allowed by DERM provided that the material is disposed by the contractor to an acceptable and permitted facility.”

Follow @joeflech on Twitter and Facebook at

Related stories from Miami Herald