Popular Liberty City Park Contaminated

If your child has visited a popular Liberty City park, the county suggests a lead poisoning test may be in order.

Lead levels that are more than 200 percent higher than normal have been found at the 6.5-acre Olinda Park at 5100 Northwest 21st Ave., according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management.

"To the best of my recollection, this is the only time we have had to close a park under circumstances like this," said Doris Howe, spokesperson for Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation Department.

Children with lead poisoning may "look and act healthy," according to a county flier distributed to nearby residents last week. But the only way to know for sure is to have your child tested.

"There is no such thing as a safe level of lead," said Louise R. Caro, a Miami-based environmental law attorney who is investigating the Olinda Park site. "Lead affects the brain and other organs which can lead to learning disabilities and worse. And it is cumulative."

At particularly high risk for lead poisoning are children ages 6 and under, since they are most apt "to put their hands or other objects into their mouths," according to a county flier. Youngsters also absorb higher percentages of lead, which could lead to serious health concerns.

The lead contamination was found during a routine test conducted on the former federal site by the EPA, said Luis Espinoza, DERM's Communications Manager, who spoke at the meeting.

Espinoza said that DERM's experts confirmed elevated levels and immediately made the recommendation to close part of the park.

Howe said that the two main sections of the park, including the basketball courts, remain open and are safe. "We are focused now on how to make the park safe," she said.

But New Times has seen children playing in the contaminated areas as well.

Grady Muhammad, who grew up in the neighborhood, thinks the county should hire a security guard to keep kids out of the off-limits zones.

"What happens when you put a sign at a kids' park that tells them to stay out?" said Muhammad. "They are gonna go in."

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Freelancer Theo Karantsalis is a San Francisco native who lovingly served Miami’s Black community for many years as an offbeat librarian. He speaks softly and carries a big pen.
Contact: Theo Karantsalis