By Chuck Strouse
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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Twisted metal. Bags of blood. Broken needles. Human excrement. Mysterious orange drums full of God-knows-what.
Like a giant shit-filled anniversary cake, the Virginia Key landfill has been stuffed full of the nastiest crap Miami has to offer. The dump has been boiling, belching, and burning for 50 years. But instead of finally cleaning it up with millions already sitting around in the bank, city and county officials are too busy bickering over the terms of — what else? — a new waste management contract.
Miami-Dade County raised $46 million from bond sales six years ago to begin a cleanup, but officials admitted last week that they won't release the money until the city signs a lucrative new trash contract. Environmentalists are crying foul.
"This is a toxic dump site," says Alexis Segal from the clean-water advocacy group Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper. "It leaches horrible things into swimming water adjacent to several highly used public beaches. It should have been moved up on the priority list decades ago."
City and county officials, naturally, blame one another. The county's Department of Solid Waste Management says it needs a new city trash agreement to make bond payments before releasing cleanup cash. "As a condition of receiving the $46 million landfill grant, the County is insisting that the City extend its waste disposal... agreement," the department said in an email to Riptide.
But Alice Bravo, Miami's assistant city manager, says that's nonsense. "It was their study that identified issues with the landfill and it was their vision to [fix] it," she says. "I don't know why you would identify a need and then make it so difficult to resolve it."
County Commissioner Xavier Suarez has tried to play the adult, suggesting a compromise on a new ten-year waste contract that would kick-start landfill cleanup. So far he's gotten nowhere. Meanwhile, just last week beaches were closed in nearby Crandon Park because of toxic bacteria floating in the water.
"I share the impatience," Suarez says. "It's a gorgeous island. The fish used to practically jump into your boat."