Coconut Grove's Regatta Park Site Tests Positive For Toxic Chemicals

The City of Miami's latest toxic park is not even a park yet: the 12-acre waterfront parcel slated to become Coconut Grove's Regatta Park. Soil tests have confirmed the presence of arsenic, chromium and benzopyrene - all known carcinogens - at levels above what county environmental regulators consider safe for human exposure. Tests also confirmed that arsenic has contaminated the groundwater.

Although the Dinner Key site has a long industrial history, dating to the area's days as a hub for early international air travel, county records say the source of the contamination is unclear.

See Also: Miami's Toxic Parks

There is no indication that the area was a dumping ground for incinerator ash. A city-funded environmental assessment of the property notes that prior to 1970 few rules existed to regulate the storage and disposal of fuels, solvents, and other toxic pollutants common in aviation maintenance.

Such chemicals are thought to be the source of contaminated soil on a grassy patch of lawn outside City Hall, just a few steps from the future park. City leaders learned of that contamination four years ago but have yet to announce a cleanup plan.

The long-promised Regatta Park, on the south side of City Hall, will replace an expanse of parking lots and the vacant land where the Coconut Grove Exhibition Center stood until demolition earlier this year. Initial plans called for a amphitheater, a pier, bay walk, community center and a combination of lush plantings and recreational green space. But last month city officials revealed that the design's $26 million price tag dwarfed their $2 million budget, assuring little other than sod and a few trees, a city planning official explained. The second of three public meetings about the new park will be held March 10 at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.

But park construction, city documents reveal, is unlikely to begin until county regulators sign off on a plan to clean up the soil, protect the groundwater, and assure that no risk to human health remains. City officials have yet to submit such a plan, county environmental records show.

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David Villano