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Contaminated Soil Found At Coconut Grove’s Blanche Park

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The City of Miami began digging up the dirty soil in the parking lot at Blanche Park on Monday September 9, 2013 at 3045 Shipping Ave. in Coconut Grove, putting in clean soil and laying down asphalt. Photo Courtesy: PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The City of Miami began digging up the dirty soil in the parking lot at Blanche Park on Monday September 9, 2013 at 3045 Shipping Ave. in Coconut Grove, putting in clean soil and laying down asphalt. Photo Courtesy: PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/The Miami Herald) – Contaminated dirt was removed from a Coconut Grove park Monday and Miami city workers began paving over the parking lot.

Soil tested as part of a potential contamination from an old incinerator showed elevated levels of toxic dioxins and heavy metals CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reported.

Additional testing on the park’s soil was done after City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff wanted possible contamination investigated.  Commissioner Sarnoff happens to live across from the Blanche Park on Shipping Avenue.

“I asked them to test places right away where we knew kids were. That was my primary concern,” he said. “Then I said where are the control studies? And they said they weren’t doing any. I’m not an expert, but it just seemed obvious,” Commissioner Sarnoff told the paper.

Blanche Park includes a playground and dog park.  Nearby Peacock Park and Esther M. Armbister Park were also studied, but no contamination was found at Peacock.

Armbister is still being evaluated Commissioner Sarnoff told the paper.

Samples taken at Blanche were so high the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management ordered its parking lot roped off in a Sept. 4 letter. Sarnoff held a meeting at the park at 6 p.m. Monday tonight to discuss the findings with nearby residents.

Borings indicate the contamination may have come from ash dumped at the site in the 1940s, and not from smoke from the old incinerator, Sarnoff told the paper.

“It appears as we continue to research records that the city either purchased it as a dump site or a park, and then turned it into a park,” he said.

The city shut down the incinerator, known as Old Smokey, at 3425 Jefferson St. in 1970 after the city of Coral Gables and two dozen residents successfully sued over the noxious smoke that billowed from the old stack. Longtime residents say ash spewed from the stack, sometimes coating nearby homes and fields with a sooty layer, and sometimes igniting roofs and trees. The stack also violated pollution controls at the time, according to a newspaper account.

Borings detected elevated levels of toxic heavy metals, so the county ordered the city to investigate contamination throughout the site.

The county’s DERM has been asking the city to come up with a plan for cleaning up the contamination for more than two years.

Commissioner Sarnoff said the city also took samples at area schools, including F.S.Tucker and Carver elementary schools, Carver Middle School and Coral Gables Senior High. He hopes to get at least preliminary results for the schools, as well as Armbrister Park, on Wednesday.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)

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