Courtesy of The Miami Herald
January 22, 2015
Surfside has been stuck in the sand — or at least it’s
how many residents feel.
In March, a developer, Fort Capital, dug up sand from underneath the
construction site on 9011 Collins Ave., the site of a hotel and condominium
called the Surf Club. Florida law says excavated sand must be placed near
the site from which it came. As such, the developer spread the sand over
Surfside’s public beach.
But many residents said the sand was completely different, even calling it
dirt. To them, the beach was no longer the same. Florida law also says the
sand must be compatible with the existing sand.
Unconvinced, the residents hired an
independent toxicologist who found levels of lead in the
“They are putting public health at stake,” said Dr. Sharon
Goldberg, a Surfside resident.
“There are no safe levels of lead, even if it’s below the
allowable limit,” said Goldberg, an assistant professor of
clinical medicine at the University of Miami Miller School
of Medicine. “In scientific studies, there’s learning
issues, neurological problems, neuropsychiatric problems. It
correlates as the amount of lead in the body rises, you have
more and more medical problems.”
Town officials convened a committee in
June to address the residents’ concerns. After four months
of meetings, the committee recommended to the town
commission that the sand be removed and placed in the dunes.
The commission approved the measure unanimously in
Jeffrey Platt, resident of Surfside and chairman of
the sand committee, center, came out to a commission meeting on Jan.
13, 2015. Platt is urging Surfside's government to help detoxify and
renew the town's sand.
But with turtle season approaching in April and the sand still sitting on
the beach, residents are concerned that commissioners have changed their
“I’ve worked very diligently with experts, residents and the commissioners,”
said Jeffrey Platt, Surfside resident and chairman of the sand committee.
“Evidently the town has saw fit to ignore the situation on the beach and I
wonder if the town has other agendas in mind, such as doing everything the
Platt and other residents filled the commission chambers during last week’s
meeting with documents, signs and bags of sand samples to show their
Among those in attendance: former commissioner Michelle Kligman.
“I realized that everybody is tired because I was on the commission at one
point and I realize that this is a very grueling and tiring process. It’s
emotionally draining. It’s a lot of things to consider,” Kligman said.
“But this process has been very poorly managed from the beginning. You do
not ask residents to take up their personal time, their personal money,
commit to them that you’re going to take action and then pull the rug from
under them in the manner that has occurred.”
Commissioner Michael Karukin agreed that the town has handled the situation
poorly, but said the resolution to remove the sand was based upon a set of
information that is no longer valid — including the price of the sand
“I don’t know whether we were given wrong information or incomplete
information, but when they told me that it was going to cost close to a
million dollars to remove the sand to the dunes, I said, ‘That’s not what I
voted for,’” Karukin said.
The original estimate for the sand removal was about $158,000, according to
town commissioners. Gordon Thomson, director of CB&I Planning and
Engineering, made the estimate a few months ago.
At the commission meeting last Tuesday, Karukin noted how the initial
estimate had ballooned to over $1 million. When he asked town manager
Guillermo Olmedillo about the higher costs, the manager said he didn’t know
and would have to report back to the commission. It was the manager’s first
commission meeting; he was hired in December.
“Clearly, this has got to be revisited somehow because I am not going to
commit a million dollars to move the sand to the dunes,” Karukin said.
“Especially absence of, what I believe, is a health risk issue.”
Residents, meanwhile, were miffed and confused as to how the new figure of a
million dollars came about.
The commission will schedule a special meeting in late February to continue
discussing the sand issue.