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September 18, 2018

Asbestos-tainted dirt leaves Dania for landfill near Coconut Creek

DANIA BEACHThe delicate task of removing asbestos-tainted dirt from a construction staging area near the airport began Monday.

The first truck rolled out shortly before 3 p.m., headed for Waste Management’s Monarch Hill landfill near Coconut Creek. The entire job could take up to three weeks, said Greg Meyer, spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Cherokee Enterprises Inc., the Miami Lakes company handling the job, will transport an estimated 50,000 cubic tons of dirt and other construction materials when all is said and done.

Test results confirmed the dirt contained traces of asbestos last week, Meyer said. The toxic material can cause mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos.

Airport officials say the asbestos found at the staging area does not pose a health risk because it is not the kind that can become airborne. But as a precaution, the entire pile of dirt is being trucked away to a landfill, where officials say the material will be properly contained.

Five loads of material were removed Monday and another 20 loads were hauled off as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, Meyer said.

That’s good news to nearby homeowners.

For months, residents in the nearby Melaleuca Gardens neighborhood have complained about all the dust stirred up by an airport contractor using the site near U.S. Highway 1 and Griffin Road as a staging area. The contractor, Tutor Perini, is expected to finish the job revamping Terminal 4 in 2018.

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Rae Sandler, president of the Melaleuca Gardens Homeowners Association, said some residents have developed a chronic cough from all the dust. Others have suffered headaches and asthma attacks, she said.

“It’s no longer a staging area,” Sandler said. “It’s a dump. They are hauling stuff out of there and hauling it here and pulverizing it. It’s mostly dirt, piles and piles of dirt. And now we find out there’s asbestos in there.”

Sandler said the homeowners association plans to hire a private company to test the dirt and soot that’s been landing on residents’ doorsteps and window sills.

Dania Beach officials alerted state and federal officials on Thursday after taking a tour of the site and spotting signs warning of asbestos contamination.

An inspector with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection showed up Friday to make sure crews were keeping the dirt wet so it would not become airborne. The entire site is fenced off and only workers wearing proper gear are allowed to enter.

Airport officials are not yet sure how much the job will cost, Meyer said.

Broward County Mayor Tim Ryan said the asbestos is embedded in old floor tiles buried long ago on airport property near Terminal 4. The material was recently dug up and trucked from airport grounds to the staging area, where it tested positive for asbestos, Ryan said.

The material was tested at the county’s request because it looked different from the other material at the site, Meyer said.

sbryan@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4554

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Asbestos-tainted dirt leaves Dania for landfill near Coconut Creek