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Developer dumps possible carcinogen in Lake Carmen, inspectors find

Miami-Dade County residents fighting to protect Lake Carmen now fear RRZ developer's contaminants may affect their health

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(Christina Vazquez/Local 10 News)

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Government regulators found two possible carcinogen in contaminated construction materials illegally dumped into a lake in a residential northwest Miami-Dade neighborhood, records show.

Homeowners surrounding Lake Carmen -- from Northwest 22nd to 17th avenues and 115th to 119th streets -- have been fighting to protect their waterfront views and the wildlife that they say attracted them to the area. 

There was anguish and frustration during a meeting Tuesday. A woman said "I used to swim in that lake while growing up. I wouldn't swim in it now." A man said he feared there was corruption. And another asked why officials give homeowners such a hard time with permits and not developers.

Their fight began after  RRR Z Developer  purchased the lake October 2014 and a group including Joe Celestin, a former mayor of North Miami, began to work on a 45-single  family home development.

CONTACT YOUR PUBLIC OFFICIAL

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime can be reached at district2@MiamiDade.gov or 305-375-4833

Construction workers' first move, the developer said, was to build a model home at 2115 NW 115 St. But residents noticed the developer was doing a lot more than that and gathered as much evidence as they could to submit it to authorities.

After an inspection, authorities found evidence of some lake filling. Ricardo Rodriguez, the RRR Z Developer manager, got a letter from Miami-Dade County warning officials had evidence  that the filling material had debris such as metal pieces, pipes, glass, reclaimed asphalt and tile.

And even more concerning was that "sample results from soil sampling of the fill material revealed levels of arsenic and Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons in excess of Miami-Dade County soil cleanup target levels," officials said in the letter.

The Environmental Protection Agency warns that PAH contaminate underground water and can be harmful to human health "under some circumstances." And the World Health Organization reports that the "greatest threat to public health from arsenic originates from contaminated groundwater."

MORE ON CARCINOGENIC: Read about hazards of arsenic

The words "toxic" and "possible carcinogenics" had the residents jumping in panic. On Tuesday, a small group -- including children who live in the neighborhood -- met with Miami-Dade County regulators and representatives from Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime's office.

Monestime did not attend the meeting, but later said in an interview that "this is a community that is regularly, or generally, in the past taken advantage of."

READ THE LETTER: Miami-Dade County issues RRR Z Developer a notice

RRZ developer -- which was fined about $2,000 for the violation -- reported having removed about 12 truck loads of fill from Lake Carmen thus far.

Local 10 News' Peter Burke, Andrea Torres and The Call Christina Investigative Team contributed to this story.

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