Coconut Grove's Blanche Park Poisoned: Ancient Incinerator May Be the Cause

Traces of a dozen dioxins and heavy metals have been discovered in Coconut Grove's Blanche Park on Shipping Avenue. Grove residents, including children, might have been exposed to the dangerous substances for years.

Workers Monday began paving a parking lot, and much of the playground, which includes a dog park, is covered in AstroTurf. The county's Department of Environmental Resources Management sent a September 4 letter ordering the parking lot roped off. Though the county has demanded cleanup plans for two years, the city has moved slowly.

The park is located across the street from Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff's home.

Sarnoff -- who had requested testing after a graduate student turned up a two-year-old report that showed the presence of the cancer-causing substances -- held a meeting at the park Monday night. "I asked them to test places right away where we knew kids were," Sarnoff told the Miami Herald. "That was my primary concern."

Nearby Esther Armbister Park is also being studied. More areas are being tested, including Carver Elementary and Carver Middle schools and Coral Gables High School.

The pollution apparently traces to ash that was dumped from a nearby incinerator that was nicknamed Old Smokey. Gables residents complained about the smoke from the facility for years, and it was shut down almost a half-century ago. The park was originally a dump.

Grove residents were outraged and concerned by the finding. Why the city had not moved more quickly despite a warning from county DERM is unclear.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse