Parks & schools reopen as smoke conditions improve near Florida waste facility fire that has burned for over a week

Waste Facility Fire Up In Smoke – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by DifferR

After a fire at a waste-to-energy factory in Doral, Florida, that has been burning for more than a week caused worries about the air quality, schools and parks will reopen on Tuesday.

Although firefighters are still battling the fire, Miami-Dade County officials said in an update on Monday that the smoke situation in the area has improved.

When firefighters attempted to get to the heart of the fire on Friday, Doral Glades Park and Doral Legacy Park were shut down, all outdoor events in Doral were rescheduled, and two Miami-Dade County Public Schools had early dismissals.

“Based on the latest air quality readings, residents in the area can enjoy outdoor activities; we encourage you to be mindful that conditions may vary throughout the day as the wind changes and to head indoors if you experience smoky conditions,” the update from the county said. “We recommend running your air conditioning at home to re-circulate air in your house, and changing your air filter more frequently than usual.”

Since February 12, a fire has been raging at the Covanta Energy Plant; the cause of the incident is being looked into. At a news conference on Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava stated that flames were affecting two buildings at the property.

According to the facility’s website, Covanta, a waste management company, diverts “waste from landfills to generate energy from the combustion of municipal solid waste,” its website says.

According to the county update, from Monday through Saturday, crews from Miami-Dade County and the Environmental Protection Agency monitored the area’s air quality.

“Per EPA protocol, monitoring has now shifted from the EPA to an independent environmental response contractor obtained by Covanta, CTEH, and air monitoring data will be provided and distributed by CTEH moving forward,” the update said.

The county said that the initial testing results from last week’s tests on Wednesday through Thursday showed increased levels of specific matter 2.5, volatile organic compounds (Total VOC), and chlorine at various points during the testing period.

“VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects depending on the level that a person is exposed to and how long they may be exposed. Total VOC measurements do not give an indication of individual chemicals that may cause health effects; more information would need to be collected,” the update said.

All residents who are facing smoky conditions are advised to stay indoors by county officials, especially at night when the wind dies down. “Anyone with preexisting respiratory and cardiac conditions, as well as older adults, young children, and expectant mothers, should take extra precautions, such as wearing a mask if you need to be outdoors,” the officials added.

There has been no impact on groundwater, officials say.

“The portion of the on-site stormwater management system that is being utilized is self-contained and has no connection to surface waters or groundwater. As such, no groundwater or surface water impacts have been observed,” officials said.

Make sure you are staying up-to-date with the latest and most important Florida news with Florida Insider. Whether you are interested in business, education, government, history, sports, real estate, nature, weather, or travel: we have something for everyone. Follow along for the best stories in the Sunshine State.