Beckham stadium site has unsafe arsenic levels

The proposed stadium site for Inter Miami CF contains levels of arsenic, lead, and barium that exceed legal limits, according to a new environmental analysis conducted by consultants hired by the team.

The Miami Herald was the first to report the news.

The site is occupied by Melreese Country Club, the city's only publicly-owned golf course. But the land was once home to a municipal incinerator that was shut down decades ago, resulting in contamination of the site. During the 1960s, the site was redeveloped into a golf course.

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The news prompted Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez to order the closure of Melreese golf course on Tuesday.

Inter Miami has long known about the environmental concerns related to the site, and pledged to pay the total cost of any remediation that is needed. To that end, Inter Miami hired environmental firm EE&G, which recently completed soil testing. The analysis revealed a level of contamination higher than anticipated, including levels of arsenic that are more than twice the legal limit.

The report also found that, "the entire site is considered to be impacted with buried incinerator ash debris" and that the debris thickness varied between one and 10 feet, with an average thickness of four feet. The debris included "fragments of tile, metal and glass, mixed with fine-grained sands, which often exhibited a rusty color."

Miami-Dade County's Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) conducted a separate series of tests which revealed high concentrations of lead. The Herald reported that in a July 15 letter to top Miami administrators, a DERM official wrote that there was surface-level "debris in the upper soil interval that require immediate attention as they pose a physical hazard."

On Monday, Inter Miami presented the results of the analysis to city leaders, including Mayor Francis Suarez. Suarez later told the Miami Herald that the cost of remediation, once estimated at $35 million, is now approaching $50 million, and that the city would be conducting its own analysis with another firm, AECOM.

Inter Miami confirmed to ESPN that it will foot the bill for that analysis as well.

An Inter Miami spokesperson stated that the results of the analysis wouldn't impact the team's plans for Miami Freedom Park, and that it is Inter Miami's intention to move forward with the remediation plan.

"The term sheet clearly outlines our commitment and agreement with the city as approved by the voters," the club told ESPN. "As soon as the commission approves our lease, we are prepared to commence remediation and site work."

The planned $1 billion development for the site, dubbed Miami Freedom Park by Inter Miami, includes a hotel, 58-acre public park, shopping center, soccer fields on the roof of a parking structure, as well as 25,000-seat stadium.

"Miami Freedom Park has continued to move forward with the various studies needed for the redevelopment of the site," the Inter Miami spokesperson told ESPN. "Our legal team and engineers have been meeting with City Commissioners and staff about the environmental report our consultants conducted on the City's land to answer any questions they may have regarding the results. That report has been submitted to the City and is public record.

"As we continue to advance plans for the voter-approved Miami Freedom Park, we will be working with the City and DERM to implement a remediation plan that is thorough, and provides residents and visitors a destination that is safe for all to enjoy."

The plan is for the stadium to be Inter Miami's permanent home after spending the first few seasons at a temporary venue in Ft. Lauderdale. Inter Miami is currently negotiating a 99-year lease with the city in order to go forward with the Freedom Park project. There is a deadline of Sept. 15 for the lease to be approved, though that isn't legally binding. Four of the five Miami city commissioners must approve the lease terms in order for the project to go forward.