PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Miami-Dade Health Officials Investigating Potential Cancer Cluster

Health officials say they're working to verify a potential cancer cluster just east of Hialeah. One resident caused a stir in July when she publicly told Miami-Dade County Commissioners that eight of her neighbors died of cancer in the last year. Officials are moving forward with their investigation and looking at a Superfund site just south of the area.

The West Little River neighborhood is on a kind of divide: on one side of NW 36th Avenue are houses and long-time residents.

On the other is an Amtrak Station, a silica sand company and, what residents are most concerned about, a steel manufacturer turned metal recycling facility.

But health officials have started their research half a mile down the road at a former Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.

Samir Elmir oversees environmental health issues within the county's health department. Elmir said, "It was close enough to look at it, yes, we don't want to miss it."

In 1987 the EPA found heavy metal in the groundwater near the former Anaconda Aluminum facility. Elmir says even though this isn't the site the neighbors are concerned about, the health department has to check any possible problems.

He says 2003 and 2004 measurements from the Superfund site look pretty good.

"The ground water and the soil samples for the chemicals of concern, they meet, basically, the environmental standards", said Elmir.

Neighbors are worried their health issues come from a metal recycler right across the street from some of their homes. The health department says it's still waiting on a full environmental report on that site.

Public records show that the site has some history of issues - but with the steel manufacturer that used to be there. In 2005, the company was cited for illegally pumping petroleum waste into its septic tank - which can contaminate soil and groundwater. And again four years later for storing paint in rusted, leaking barrels.

It's important to note that residents in the area are on the public water system, not groundwater wells. And that the health department is still verifying the claim that eight neighbors have died of cancer in the last year.