Fed up with what they see as stonewalling by local officials, a group of Coconut Grove residents has filed a petition with a the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The petition calls for a formal investigation into the health risks associated with lingering contamination from the former trash incinerator known as Old Smokey.
The group, with assistance from the University of Miami School of Law's Environmental Justice Project, is also requesting the creation of a disease registry to systematically track and identify cancers and other adverse health outcomes linked to the incinerator's toxic byproducts.
Old Smokey was closed in 1970, but as New Times reported in an investigation last month, many longtime residents believe prolonged exposure to smoke, ash, and other pollutants during the incinerator's years of operation have predisposed them to cancer, respiratory ailments, and other illness.
The West Grove area has an unusually high rate of pancreatic cancer, which has been linked to arsenic exposure. Arsenic is a principal toxic byproduct of incinerator ash.
Local and state officials have never studied the long-term health consequences of exposure to Old Smokey's pollutants. Florida Department of Health officials say they are unaware of so-called cancer clusters in Coconut Grove and have never fully investigated residents' concerns because they were never asked.
The petition calls into question local and state oversight, alleging an indifference to current and former residents living in close proximity to the incinerator. Attorneys for the local group say the feds have yet to respond to the petition.