Contaminated Soil and Groundwater at Blanche Park Not a Public Health Risk, Toxicology Reports Say

Miami officials considering corrective action for park that includes removal of artificial turf, and partial waste removal and grading where needed

Some contaminated soil and groundwater was found in new testing done at Miami’s Blanche Park, but not at levels that pose public health risks, toxicology results released Tuesday show.

The Florida Department of Health performed the toxicology study at the park, which was closed after an early sample identified contaminated soil at Shipping Avenue and Virginia Street. That playground was closed and the city said it ordered tests at all its parks.

Testing did show some contamination of groundwater below Blanche Park, but public exposure to the groundwater isn't expected and there is no public health risk, the results showed. 

Antimony was the only chemical found at levels above Florida's groundwater criteria, according to a health risk assessment. But the water available in the park comes from the public water supply and not private wells, the toxicology report said.

The toxicology study reports were released during a community meeting at Miami City Hall, where City of Miami and Miami-Dade County DERM representatives were present to answer questions from the public.

Miami officials are considering corrective action for Blanche Park that includes the removal of artificial turf, partial waste removal and grading where needed, and installation of a liner, said Wilbur Mayorga, the chief of DERM's Environmental Monitoring and Restoration Division. Officials also are considering placing clean fill and re-installing artificial turf, he said.

Dawn McCarthy, whose young daughter played at Blanche Park, was not satisfied.

"Basically their recommendations are to do nothing, saying that the park is safe … I think it’s atrocious that that park is open knowing that there’s all this contaminated soil, there’s contaminated ground water beneath it,” she said.

Soil testing on the perimeter of the playground and the dog park showed contamination from dioxins, iron, barium, copper, antimony and arsenic that was above Florida residential soil cleanup target levels, but exposure from those contaminants is unlikely to cause illness in people, the assessment said.

Arsenic was frequently found in levels above the Florida soil cleanup target level, the assessment said.

But no public health actions are recommended, the assessment concluded.

People are also unlikely to become ill from past exposure to contaminants found in the soil in the playground and dog park, according to the assessment.

Mayorga said some solid waste was found at 3 inches of depth in the western part of the landscaped area of the playground, just inside the northern fence. That solid waste and soil was removed down to below 2 feet and replaced with clean fill, he said.

In addition to the proposed corrective action for Blanche Park, officials also plan to assess and delineate the degree and extent of contamination, including west of residential property to the west, and to the north of the playground area, Mayorga said.

Blanche, Merrie Christmas and Douglas parks have been linked to contaminated soil but Blanche Park remained open to the public previously. Officials said turf and asphalt covered the park from the contaminated soil, the Miami Herald reported.

Miami City Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff, who has been actively working with on contaminated parks issue, said that even though the toxicology report shows no public health risk, all three parks will get a major makeover.

“We're gonna clean Blanche, we’re gonna clean Douglas, we’re gonna clean Merrie Christmas," he promised.

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