09/25/2013 12:30 pm ET

Miami Closes Merrie Christmas Park After Contaminates Found In Soil; Will Test All Parks

City of Miami officials have closed Merrie Christmas Park indefinitely after the popular field and playground tested positive for contaminated soil and evidence of solid waste.

The park was tested after Blanche Park, another Coconut Grove park and former incinerator site, tested positive for dioxins, arsenic, barium, lead, and other deadly contaminants.

The arsenic levels found were 30 times the state's limit, reports the Miami Herald. Blanche park has since been covered with a foot of asphalt and remains open.

Merrie Christmas Park is closed, however, until city, county, and state officials can decide how to "permanently remedy the issue," according to a release.

Yet the handling of other contaminated sites suggests that action will be anything but prompt.

A Miami New Times report revealed that workers knew about the contamination in Coconut Grove surrounding the long-closed "Old Smokey" trash incinerator two years ago.

Yet the city neglected to take action on the toxic waste, despite warnings from county environmental officials.

With the closing of Merrie Christmas Park, city officials said that several other area parks and schools have been tested and samples did not reveal similar concerns, but the release did not list specific sites.

Meanwhile New Times listed four other sites where contamination remains un-addressed: Fern Isle Park, José Martí Park, a lot at NE 55th Street near the corner of Fourth Avenue, and waterfront land just outside Miami City Hall.

The city now has 30 days to come up with a plan for testing all of its parks, reports CBS Miami.

This is something we inherited and this is something that the city should have done, not one year ago, but 20 years ago. But be that as it may, we are committed to doing the testing,” Miami Mayor Tomas Regaldo told the Miami Herald.

It may too late though for some Miami residents.

New Times pointed to a University of Miami School of Medicine study on high rates of pancreatic cancer in and around Coconut Grove that traced the cancer cluster to "drinking water, possibly from private wells, contaminated with arsenic."

Yet the UM researcher, who remains anonymous, told the New York Times that no direct correlation between the area's cancers and Old Smokey ash found at local parks could be established without further research.



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