King Metal is just Broadmoor's most recent example of a hated business. Consider not only the Anaconda/Milgo site, which is located a sparse half-mile from the neighborhood, but also Brenntag Mid-South Inc., a business right next to King Metal. A chemical storage and distribution company based in Kentucky, Brenntag has owned the plot of land at 8700 NW 36th Ave. for the past decade. Before then, the building and land belonged to Burris Chemical, which purchased the property from U.S. Steel in 1983. The warehouse there had been a storage facility for solvents since the '50s. In 1985, Burris learned that the groundwater and soil at its new property was contaminated with a variety of volatile and semivolatile compounds. They included butanone, an industrial solvent used to make plastics and paint remover; ethylbenzene, also used to make plastics; vinyl chloride, one of the chief ingredients in PVC; and chlorotoluene, a solvent and common additive in gasoline.

All of those chemicals, at high enough concentrations, can cause health problems in humans. Vinyl chloride, in particular, is a known carcinogen, according to the EPA.

The chemicals that contaminated the soil and groundwater at the Burris Chemical site did not affect drinking water or spread beyond the plant, DERM officials say. Upon discovering the issue, DERM and Burris immediately began soil removal and groundwater filtration. According to county records, the level of contamination was not high enough to create health problems.

Pedro Amador, the owner of King Metal Recycling, opened the plant in Broadmoor in 2010.
Pedro Amador, the owner of King Metal Recycling, opened the plant in Broadmoor in 2010.
An aerial picture (above) shows how close the plant (in red) is to homes.
An aerial picture (above) shows how close the plant (in red) is to homes.

A half-dozen other sites within a mile and a half of King Metal are listed on the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, a list of facilities that emit chemicals into the air, ground, or water. Miami-Dade County, through DERM, maintains its own list of contaminated sites, 84 of which are within a mile and a half of the plant and the neighborhood next to it.

Most of those chemical issues were discovered in the '80s and early '90s, when the EPA ramped up its efforts to investigate and eliminate potential toxic sites. They are diverse and extensive. Among them:

• MacMillan Oil Company of Florida, which is across the train tracks from King Metal, in 1991 had issues with elevated levels of benzene in the groundwater and in 1993 with lead on the property.

• At Star Chemical Company on NW 75th Street at 25th Avenue, inspections in 1990 and 1991 found levels of at least five chemicals exceeding Dade County groundwater standards, including chlordane, which has been linked to breast, prostate, and brain cancer, as well as leukemia and lymphoma.

• Angler Boat Corporation at NW 74th Street and 37th Avenue was cited March 1, 2007, for using "gel coats [that] exceed the organic hazardous air pollution content limit."

• Toro's Service Auto Repair at NW 87th Street and 32nd Avenue received multiple citations between 2009 and 2011 for improper storage and disposal of coolant, used absorbent, and wastewater.

Even on King Metal's land, there were pollution issues. Adelman Steel Corporation, which sold its property to King Metal in 2010, was cited in July 2005 for elevated levels of petroleum hydrocarbons in an on-site septic tank. In March 2009, a DERM inspection showed a paint-spraying booth in the facility was not filtered correctly, allowing toxic paint fumes to enter the atmosphere. Later that month, the company was reprimanded for keeping too many drums of hazardous waste on the property and not disposing of them promptly. In November 2009, the county cited Adelman for hazardous-waste storage — containers were leaking or not properly sealed.

Despite all of these violations, not one of these plants or facilities was permanently shut down by DERM or any other agency. Records show fines were relatively light, usually no more than a few thousand dollars. "You don't pass judgment on the specific operator," says DERM's Lee Hefty. "If you have something that's noncompliant, you try to get them compliant."

But even in compliance, health and environmental issues still exist. King Metal wasn't fully enclosed to prevent the spread of dust and soot. Metal dust from shearing, dust from the enamel paint on the scrap metal, and diesel fumes from trucks and forklifts have been linked to asthma, mesothelioma, and lung cancer, according to the American Lung Association.

Metal recycling can be done safely, but it's time-consuming and expensive, says Kyla Bennett, who works for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The air needs to be constantly and properly ventilated. Wastewater must be handled securely. Walls need to be in place, and anything but pure metal cannot be allowed. "Theoretically, it's possible to do in a clean way," Bennett says. "Would I want to live half a mile away? Absolutely not."

On September 14, as Miami-Dade Commissioners Jordan and Monestime, along with health department and DERM officials, toured King Metal, the place was quiet. But across the street, Dinet McCoy, Vanessa Shelton, and a dozen other Broadmoor residents sat on lawn chairs while fanning themselves in the heat and holding up cardboard signs that read, "Our Petition Will Be Granted." Though their illnesses had prompted the investigation, they weren't allowed inside. So they sat and waited to see what their elected leaders would tell them.

After an hour or so of poking around piles of scrap metal, the commissioners left the plant. The results were disappointing. "They came over and they didn't say what they'd found," McCoy says. "They didn't say anything. All they said was that they would have a meeting with us to discuss whatever they decided."

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Malik El-Amin
Malik El-Amin

Based on what I've read, it sure sounds like it. I feel so bad for these folks. And they're getting the run around from the folks that are supposed to be looking after them.