The Treasure Cove Yacht Club is an ocean-access residential development in Dania Beach that seems idyllic. But one man says there's trouble lurking in the ground.
Former garbage company executive Ahron Farache says Treasure Cove is rife with potentially harmful fill dirt known as RSM, which stands for recovered screen material. RSM is dirt and dust shaken out from construction debris that can contain particulates from drywall, shingles, paint and other materials. It can also hold arsenic, a known carcinogen, and other contaminants.
Farache oversaw the delivery of hundreds of loads of dirt fill to the Treasure Cove construction site in 2001 for Sun Recycling, a company he helped found and which has had a history of environmental violations (read yesterday's report on those here). Sun Recycle is now part of Sun Bergeron, a company that recently won a garbage disposal contract in Miramar and is vying to do the same across Broward County.
He said that mixed in with the clean fill that was promised were hundreds of loads of RSM. “I’m talking about 250 loads, maybe 300 loads, maybe more,” says Farache.
In 2001, the Broward County Department of Environmental Protection caught Sun illegally placing RSM on Treasure Cove and several other locations. Officials fined the company $80,000 and ordered a cleanup.
Sun officials said in documents they accidentally put only a few loads of RSM at Treasure Cove and insist a full cleanup took place. Farache says otherwise.
"We don't remove it,” said Farache, a long-time veteran of the South Florida garbage industry.
Farache said Treasure Cove developer Gary Posner at one point called to complain about a sulfurous odor coming from the ground where Sun had placed the fill. Farache said he drove to the site and cut a hole through the floor of a home under construction where the smell was worst.
"The moment I dig the smell came to my face and they took me to the hospital right away,” he said. “I [had a] headache, I vomit."
He said they ventilated some of the completed homes with perfumed air but never performed the cleanup ordered by the county. In 2004, Posner’s development company sued Sun alleging that the company knew the fill it placed on the property contained unlawful contaminants. That suit was settled out of court in 2008 under confidential terms with no additional cleanup performed.
Sun refused to be interviewed about Treasure Cove. But a Sun attorney, Amy Galloway, pointed out that Farache and Sun have been involved in litigation for years. Farache claims he is owed millions of dollars from Sun after helping to found the company.
“It was determined that not only was Ahron Farache the source of falsehoods regarding Sun’s performance of the remediation plan, but that he also had financial ties with the Treasure Cove developers,” wrote Sun attorney Amy Galloway.
Farache concedes he loaned money to Posner, who died in March, but said that is irrelevant to the environmental situation at Treasure Cove.
“I’m telling the truth,” said Farache.
Sun told Local 10 that it collected soil tests at Treasure Cove in 2007 and 2008 and that all came back showing residentially acceptable levels of arsenic. Farache insisted that if the soil was tested independently it would show high arsenic levels and he said he would accompany environmental regulators to the neighborhood to show them where the RSM lies.
To try to find the truth, I collected a soil sample from Treasure Cove last month and had it tested at the Florida Spectrum in Deerfield Beach, The result showed arsenic levels of 3.07 mg/kg -- which is well above the state’s acceptable residential level of 2.1 mg/kg and the federal soil standard of .40 mg/kg.
I asked arsenic expert Yong Cai, a chemistry professor at Florida International University, about the test result at Treasure Cove.
“You get alarmed because 3.1 is 50 percent higher than the standard,” he said. “You need to do further investigation.”
But Cai also said my single test was far from definitive and that complete scientific testing would have to be done on the property to determine if there is a serious problem. Sun responded that our test “cannot be expected to be a reasonable representation of present conditions” at Treasure Cove and *that the 3.07 level can be found naturally in some parts of South Florida.
Treasure Cove residents I spoke with said they had no idea about the lawsuit or that any environmental violations had occurred there at all.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Kevin Bowlby, who sits on the Treasure Cove board.
When told of the situation, Dania Beach Commissioner Walter Duke said simply, “We need to get to the bottom of this."