City, county to meet over soil samples around contaminated site

A public meeting to discuss findings from soil sampling around Coconut Grove triggered by contamination at the site of an old Miami incinerator has been rescheduled.

Miami-Dade County environmental officials asked the city of Miami to change the meeting at Virrick Park, 3255 Plaza St., from Wednesday to 6 p.m. Monday to have more time to compile information from soil sampling.

Meanwhile, city and county staff plan to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss findings from 23 samples taken by the city around Coconut Grove, as well as 40 samples collected by DERM. Schools being tested include F.S. Tucker and Carver elementary schools, Carver Middle School and Gables Senior High. The city contacted Ransom Everglades School about testing, but Head of School Ellen Moceri said when her chief financial officer returned from vacation and called the city about the testing, the city never responded.

Last month, the city and the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) widened testing sparked by the discovery of lead, barium and other toxic metals more than two years ago at the site of the city’s fire training facility at 3425 Jefferson St. in Coconut Grove. The site had once been the home of Old Smokey, a towering smoke stack that billowed smoke and ash for four decades before the city shut it down in 1970.

The county originally gave the city 30 days to investigate the contamination on the firefighters’ facility site and come up with a clean-up plan. But efforts have now dragged on for more than two years, frustrating residents already angry about how information has been disclosed and the city’s inability to come up with a clean-up plan.

Last week, DERM ordered the city to rope off part of Blanche Park, a popular park for children and dogs at 3045 Shipping Ave. in Coconut Grove, after city tests uncovered high levels of dioxins, as well as lead, arsenic and barium. These substances are known to cause multiple health problems, from cancer to affecting one’s cardiovascular, digestive, nervous, reproductive and respiratory systems.

On Monday, city workers trucked away the contaminated soil and paved over the lot, allowing it to stay open while officials come up with a final clean-up plan.

Soil from the site is now being tested to determine how the city should dispose of it, DERM spokesman Luis Espinoza said Tuesday.

Related stories from Miami Herald