DORAL, Fla. – Doral residents have complained about the emissions coming from Waste Management's Medley landfill for years. Hundreds of trucks dump more than 4,000 tons of fresh trash that piles up there every day. The residents refer to the growing landfill as "Mount Trashmore."
Juan Carlos "J.C." Bermudez, the mayor, remembers the landfill was already there when the city was founded in 2003. Miami-Dade County officials had turned land that was once zoned for industrial use into areas where neighborhood developments were allowed.
The landfill operates under a permit issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It has remained there even though Bermudez has evidence from the city's putrid odors complaint program that it's affecting quality of life.
Heidi Aziz has been living about five miles away from the waste facility in a half-million dollar home at The Islands at Doral luxury community for about three years. She doesn't think the smell is a quality of life issue. She believes it's a public health issue.
"It just smells like a toilet, to be honest with you," Aziz said. "I don't want my kids inhaling that. They just opened a new park right here, which is great. It's beautiful, but it's next to it."
Now, Doral residents are worried about a plan to bring more garbage to the landfill. In May, SCS Engineers Environmental Consultants and Contractors submitted an FDEP application on behalf of Waste Management asking state authorities to allow a vertical expansion.
Waste Management wants the landfill, which serves a population of about 4.5 million, to be the height of a 30-floor building. It's 265 feet tall, and if the permit goes through, it would be 340 feet tall. Bermudez said the city is fighting back in Tallahassee.
"It just keeps on going up and up," Bermudez said.
Although the Florida DEP inspects the property regularly and it remains compliant, the city's environmental task force has spent on audits to track the area's environmental quality and the landfill's compliance with DEP standards on air, water and soil pollutants.
As the city grew, Miami-Dade County Public Schools opened schools in the communities west of the landfill. Ronald W. Reagan Doral Senior High School opened in 2006, Dr. Rolando Espinosa K-8 Center followed and Dr. Toni Bilbao Preparatory Academy opened in 2017.
In 2016, R.J. Behar & Company Inc. recommended that the city buy and maintain air monitoring devices. That year, the International Journal of Epidemiology published research saying people who live within 3 miles of a landfill site are at risk.
Researchers say hydrogen sulphide, also known as sewer gas, is a major odorous component in a landfill. Although it poses potential health risks, there haven't been many studies on the formation of the gas in landfill's emissions. Also, the city has yet to get the funding for the air monitoring program.
Ann Ryan, who lives in the landfill's neighboring community of Grand Bay Estates, is fed up. She wrote on Facebook that the perseverence of the Venezuelan migrants who are fighting for their country from Doral is inspiring.
Ryan started the End Medley Trash Operations Facebook page and she wants other residents to join her to "take on Goliath and win!"
"I think what is right is for the dump to either cease operations or to install proper air and water control equipment," Ryan wrote. "Do you think the same? If you do, please write the state TODAY to let them know that you do NOT think the Medley dump should be allowed this vertical expansion."