Diaz, Garcia, Rodriguez seek help for blasting claims

Community By David L. Snelling, The Miami Laker staff Thursday, June 4, 2015

Northwest Miami-Dade residents who are reeling from the rock mining industry’s blasting that allegedly caused damages to their properties have turned to two state lawmakers in hopes of finding some solutions before the problem deteriorates and they have to spend more money for repairs.

During the 2015 Legislative Session in Tallahassee, State Representative Manny Diaz Jr. and State Senator Rene Garcia, who represent the Town of Miami Lakes and Palm Springs North (PSN), took the initial step by sponsoring legislation that added language to House Bill 359 (Miami-Dade Lake Belt Plan), which allows the state’s Fire Marshall, who controls the frequency of blasting, to initiate a study on the level of the explosions, and how to investigate and pay legitimate claims to property owners.  

The Lake Belt Plan encompasses the extensive rock mining area in the western fringes of the county; protecting the Everglades and county’s safe drinking water are primary objectives of the plan.

Diaz and Garcia are also exploring other resolutions to the homeowners’ problems, who claimed the blasting has some seismic consequences, such as creating cracks inside their homes, swimming pools, driveways and garages. 

The two state lawmakers called several town hall meetings in Miami Lakes and PSN to listen and gauge the extent of the damages to their properties before deciding the next steps to take to help resolve the issue.

Last week in Miami Lakes, Diaz, Garcia and Councilmember Nelson Rodriguez met with Ronnie VanLandingham, vice president of operations for White Rock Quarries, and they all subsequently participated in a conference call with officials from the state’s Fire Marshall office over the impact of blasting on residents’ homes.

The three lawmakers decided to lead the charge on working on some solutions with all the stakeholders on behalf of their constituents.

“The legislative process works best when we all work together,” said Garcia. “This was a great first step and I thank Councilmember Rodriguez and Representative Diaz for coming to the table with ideas.”

Diaz said he has felt the rock mining blasting and vibrations in his own home.

“Our concerns with the rock mining have been the blasting impact, water safety and accountability,” Diaz said “Our legislation and the continued effort of us working together will make sure we address those concerns.”

Rodriguez echoed similar sentiments.

“Miami Lakes and I have felt the vibrations from blasting,” said Rodriguez, a Coral Gables firefighter, who reached out to Diaz and Garcia for help. “This legislation and study is a good first step and I will continue to work with our state friends to do what’s best for the residents of Miami Lakes.”

PSN residents, who were affected by the explosions as well, said more damages to their homes are forthcoming because they believe the rock mining industry’s blasting intensity has increased. 

According to the North Star, a monthly newsletter published by the Palm Springs North Civic Association, the organization reached out to White Rock Quarries representatives and learned that the reason for the increased intensity is that the blasting was conducted in a new location, which is two miles from the majority of the surrounding homes.

Representatives from White Rock Quarries agreed to attend the PSN group’s meeting on April 13 to listen to the residents’ concerns, but they canceled their attendance because the one person who could address the blasting issue couldn’t make it.

About 100 residents attended the meeting, where representatives from the Limestone Associations, Fire Marshall office, County Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr., Diaz and Garcia’s office were on hand.

Garcia and Diaz were in Tallahassee addressing the issue for House Bill 359. 

During the meeting, residents learned that White Rock pays an independent company to monitor their level of blasting, but area homeowners cited a conflict of interest since the rock miners pay it to craft out a favorable report.

Residents instead called for either the state or county to monitor the blasting with White Rock paying the costs of observing their level of explosions.

Northwest Miami-Dade homeowners also learned that if residents suspect that blasting caused damages to their homes or properties, they can take action by calling the Fire Marshall’s office to request an inspection. 

As part of the process, homeowners must document and take pictures of their damaged homes, and record the date and time of the damages.

Representatives from the rock mining industry said they are blasting within the state’s guidelines for the level of explosions, but residents believe the regulations could be obsolete because the area has grown substantially over the years, placing homes and business near the blasting locations.

Residents in PSN and Miami Lakes hope their congressional leaders can resolve the matter to prevent more damages to their homes.