River Cities

Miami-Dade County disapproves Miami Springs’ plans for new $5 million pool

A sign outside the Miami Springs aquatic center project shows how it will look upon completion.
A sign outside the Miami Springs aquatic center project shows how it will look upon completion. For the Miami Herald

Miami Springs’ plans for a proposed $5 million aquatic center have been disapproved by the county.

A three-page DERM report dated Sept. 15, obtained by the Miami Herald through a public records request, lists 10 reasons why the pool’s facilities plan was disapproved. The Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) is a division of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources.

DERM’s disapproval reasons of city pool plans include failing to list:

▪ All hazardous materials to be stored, used and/or generated at the facility.

▪ All non-domestic waste generated from this facility.

▪ A hazardous materials inventory that existed at the entire property prior to March 13, 1981, pursuant to county code, showing the type of hazardous materials, as well as their location.

A separate one-page disapproval notice for the new pool’s permit shows an “overall disapproval” status, states a Sept. 29 DERM plan review summary.

There was no mention of DERM’s disapproval of the facility’s plans during a special pool update held during the Oct. 12 city council meeting.

“Lunacon, the contractor, is responsible for permitting and other than the normal difficulties that all projects large and small have getting fire’s sign-off, permitting is going as expected,” wrote City Manager Ron Gorland in an Oct. 14 email to the Herald.

Lunacon did not return emails by the Herald seeking comment as to whether they have had any pool permitting issues.

Last week, the Herald reported that while prepping the pool’s foundation, the city’s contractor found “an unforeseen 300-gallon underground storage tank and an adjacent concrete vault,” states an August tank closure report submitted to DERM from the city.

Located near the Hialeah Preston wellfield protection area, one 16-foot-by-6-foot tank, which could hold 2,400 pounds of fuel, ruptured recently spilling an “unknown” amount of liquid to adjacent surface soils, states the report. A not-to-scale map provided by the city to the Herald last week, erroneously indicated that the fuel tanks were located near the kiddie slide area of the former pool.

The tank was removed and crushed before an inspector arrived onsite. An adjacent tank, which measured 12 feet by 6 feet, also was removed.

“The soil and groundwater analysis do not exceed the cleanup target levels referenced in Chapter 24 of the Miami-Dade County code,” reads a letter sent Sept. 25 from DERM to the city of Miami Springs. “If subsequent evidence indicates that undiscovered contamination remains from a previous discharge or if a new discharge has occurred, then further action will be required to address such contamination.”

More than five tons of “petroleum contaminated soil” was scooped from the pool area Aug. 25 and hauled off to a Medley landfill, states a city soil disposal report obtained by the Herald through a public records request.

Complying with DERM’s inventory of hazardous materials that existed at the site, prior to March 13, 1981, may prove challenging.

“The two tanks, one cement and the other metal, appear to have contained possibly diesel fuel and the other maybe chlorine,” Gorland wrote in an Oct. 14 email to the Herald. “No one knows for sure or even remembers that they were ever there. They were not on the old as-built plans either.”

The former pool served the city for more than 50 years.

“Those tanks did not show up on any of the paperwork that we had archived,” Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia said at the Oct. 12 council meeting.

The open excavation project at the pool gave county officials a rare chance to peer in and conduct extensive tests from “the soil, walls and bottom,” said Wilbur Mayorga, chief of DERM’s environmental monitoring and restoration division.

“The good news is that, after review, all the analytical results were below detection limits,” Mayorga said Thursday afternoon. “There are no contamination issues at this time.”

The disapproval of a permit is not that uncommon, according to DERM.

“They can submit a package again and we [DERM] can approve or disapprove again,” a DERM spokesperson said.

A new 6,000-square-foot pool structure that includes six lap-swimming lanes, a giant slide and a one-story administrative office building is expected to be completed by next summer.