Area residents air gripes at Blasting Town Hall

Friday, July 7, 2017 0 Comments

One northwest Miami-Dade man said he thought his roof was about to cave in following an explosion that rocked his entire home. 

Another local resident said the blast knocked her out of her chair.

And another explosion sent one kid from the living room to the kitchen, slightly injuring him. 
A group of residents from Miami Lakes, Palm Springs North, Country Club of Miami and Broward County shared their gut wrenching stories about the impact the rock mining industry’s blasting has had on their lives.

During a town hall meeting in Miami Lakes on the Construction Mining in the Miami-Dade Lake Belt Region, the equally frustrated residents turned to officials from the state’s Fire Marshall Office, which regulates blasting, in hopes of ceasing the damages to their properties.
Some residents said the explosions felt like an earth quake, having seismic consequences with cracks in their pools and driveways, and the walls inside their homes.

“This has been going on for years, causing my house to shake and glasses and windows are rattling,” said Country Club of Miami resident Barbara Hagen. “That means the frequency of the blast is too high.”

In an effort to find some solutions to the homeowners’ problem, the state has allocated $325,000 to study the impact of blasting and determine if the rules need to be changed to prevent more property damages.

Julius Halas, division director of the Fire Marshall Office and a former fire chief in Sarasota, said the state agency, which falls under Chief Financial Officer Steve Atwater, budgeted the money last year for the study before Governor Rick Scott vetoed the funding.
This year, they held their breath when Scott scrutinized the budget and restored the funding in the state’s $83 million budget.

Halas said the Fire Marshall Office has been flooded with emails, letters, phone calls and personal visits from residents affected by the blasting, which makes materials to build roads throughout the state of Florida.

“Since our meeting in Tallahassee, we have been working on this project ever since,” said Hollis, who was accompanied by some of his colleagues from the Fire Marshall Office to the town hall meeting. “I know most of you thought we weren’t listening but we were and are doing something about it.”

Bureau of Fire Prevention Chief Casia Sinco said the rock mining industry, including chief miner White Rock Quarries, are blasting within federal and state guidelines.

She said the residents are impacted by the blasts since their homes are near the mines and lakes, as the wave of energy passes through the water and causes the vibrations on their properties.

“It can cause major damages,” she said.

Sinco indicated the blasting frequencies could be obsolete, citing a U.S. Bureau of Mines Report from the 1980s that identified in a study a mandate the rock miners must follow for their operations. 

Joe Crownover, a consultant with IGS, which monitors blasting and vibrations, outlined the level of explosions that cause minor and major damages to homes depending on the types of walls.
He said the peak particle velocity of 0.50 would cause little damage to plaster walls and 0.75 for drywall structures has the same effect.

But a peak particle velocity of 2.00 would likely cause more damage and 7.60 may have 50 percent chance of major damage.

“You can’t see it, but you can feel the effects and see the damages,” Crownover said.

Until the study is completed, Sinco said residents can file a suit under the Homeowners Protection Act if blasting caused damages to their properties.

Residents claims would be heard during the Division of Administration Hearings and an administrative judge would decide whether homeowners would be compensated for the damages.

“But you must have proof like pictures of the damages to your properties to present at the hearings,” she said.

A northwest Miami-Dade resident said another claims process is unfair to homeowners since the rock mining industry is the judge and jury on a homeowner’s claim. 

“They pick the inspectors to come to our homes and they say the cracks and damages happened because your home is settling,” she said. 

Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid said the study on the impact of blasting is the biggest victory for residents who are hoping the results would spur the Fire Marshall Office to change the regulations to benefit them instead of the rock miners.

“This is a big step,” Cid said. “It’s a real problem and it’s getting worse.”

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said his residents are sharing the same experience of the damages blasting has caused to their homes. He said they can’t stop the rock miners from blasting but they are seeking a compromise.

“How can we coexist,” Messam said. “We crossed one hurdle with the resource to conduct a study to address the issue that is impacting our communities. If we continue to work together, I’m sure we can come up with a resolution.”

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