Community concerned over methods removing Merrie Christmas Park's toxic soil

City closed park after soil samples uncovered concentrations of arsenic, barium, copper, iron, lead

MIAMI – "Contamination concerns" at Merrie Christmas Park were the focus of a public hearing Thursday evening in Miami. People living nearby are worried about the methods being used to remove the toxic soil.

A concerned community organized around the idea that a park where children play should not be contaminated.

Two hours before addressing their concerns at Miami City Hall, community activists hoped to tell others about the problem at Merrie Christmas Park.

"We need a total contamination cleanup in this park," said Ken Russell, of Friends of Merrie Christmas Park.

The city closed the park after soil samples collected by the county uncovered worrisome concentrations of arsenic, barium, copper, iron and lead.

Since the cleanup started, residents don't want some of the contaminated soil dispersed to other sections of the park.

"It is gigantic. It is 2,500 tons of contaminated soil that they have piled up in the middle of a park," said Russell.

The plan was to cap that soil with a layer of "clean soil."

"To the credit of the city, they have heard our call and they have listened enough to stop any spreading of the contaminated soil while we have these negotiations, while we have this talk," said Russell.

For residents, it's not just about the possible health hazards that come with contaminated soil -- it's also about their property values.

The county has deemed homes within a quarter mile of the park with an unwanted designation.

"I've already heard of people who are buying homes and using this as leverage to get a lower price, or people who are trying to sell their homes and then hear about this," said Russell.

More than 100 signatures will be delivered to those charged with deciding what happens.

"What we're asking for is for the city to clean up this park well enough and that our home values are not diminished," said Russell.