EDIT: The attached copy is from an email sent to Huffington Post by the City of Orlando prior to the story being published. It is not in response to their article.
The Huffington Post released an article entitled, “Even Breathing Is A Risk In One Of Orlando’s Poorest Neighborhoods” on January 23, in response to reports of environmental racism in the Parramore neighborhood of Griffin Park.
The article attempts to shed a light on an often overlooked neighborhood that exists in the shadow of I-4 and the 408, almost completely encircled by highways; highways that are currently under construction as part of the I-4 Ultimate project.
For added context the City of Orlando had issued the following statement to Huffington Post in preparation of their article:
“The City of Orlando is committed to the revitalization of the Parramore neighborhood. The foundation of this revitalization is the recently completed Parramore Comprehensive Plan you mentioned. One of the priorities of this plan is transforming Parramore into one of the healthiest neighborhoods in the city and to make it easier for people to live a healthier lifestyle. The Parramore Comprehensive Plan is a long-range vision plan and many initiatives are underway to achieve this, including a new Parramore Farmer’s market, community gardens and the new Westmoreland Bike Path. Additionally, through a focus on youth, teen birth rates have declined by 73% over the last 10 years.
The Parramore Comprehensive Plan is a long-term plan that will take many years to complete. One of the recommendations of the Plan was to complete a community health needs assessment. As a short-term recommendation the goal is begin this assessment within 5 years. Staff is currently in the early stages pursuing funding opportunities.
Below is information and background about the two specific areas you asked about – Griffin Park and the Orlando Gasification plant. Your questions regarding air quality tests and asthma rates should be directed to the Orange County Health Department as the City does not have a health department.
It appears the feedback raised by the residents, is associated with the Ultimate 1-4 construction project. This project is having impacts across the city and county where construction is occurring. The City of Orlando has limited to no jurisdiction in this area as this is a Florida Department of Transportation project, so I would suggest you call them for a response on the feedback from residents. Additionally, Griffin Park is owned by the Orlando Housing Authority which is not a City of Orlando entity.
Orlando Gasification Plant
As a bit of background: This site was formerly a manufactured gas plant from 1887 – 1959, which was not owned by the City of Orlando. This plant was one of more than 3,500 manufactured gas plants around the country at this time.
On August 10, 2017, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) released its formal Public Health Assessment Report on the Orlando Gasification Plant site, following consultation with approximately 280 community members to address health concerns potentially presented by the Site. FDOH concluded in the final report that the Site does not pose a health risk, stating, “Since people do not come into contact with contaminants in groundwater or on-site or nearby subsurface soils, they will not harm people’s health.” This is because site properties are fenced and pavement, asphalt or concrete covers most areas of concern. Drinking water for the area comes from municipal wells that are located over a mile away and at much greater depth. No contaminants from the site have ever been found in the city’s drinking water, and the water utility continues to sample the drinking water regularly. Finally, FDOH determined that contaminants were not present in soils at residences near the site or in public rights of way that are likely to harm human health.
You asked about the approval for cleanup in 2013. That is the Record of Decision being published by the EPA in 2013 which identified the cleanup remedy selected by EPA for the site that will be managed by the Orlando Gasification Plant Site Group, of which the City is one of five members. Since that time, the Group has been working cooperatively with the EPA to design and implement that remedy, which requires additional investigation, development of remedial design plans and EPA’s approval of the final design. Following receipt of EPA’s approval of the final design, the project must then be bid to pre-qualified contractors before contracting with a qualified firm for construction of the remedy. The Group has followed those steps all under EPA’s oversight and direction.
The group expects to begin construction of the initial phase of site remediation in the first quarter of this year, with close cooperating and oversight from the EPA and FDEP. This will essentially entail removal and replacement of soil from parcels within the site, and restoration of any sidewalks and pavement impacted by that work. Contractors will be required to follow odor and dust control procedures to minimize any impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
The Group will proceed with construction of the EPA-approved plan to clean up the Site with continued oversight by EPA and FDEP, while minimizing disruptions to the community.
As with urban environments around the country, much of the city’s downtown core has some level of clean-up and remediation needed from old, private uses like dry cleaners, automobile stores, manufactured gas plants, etc. The city of Orlando has in fact dedicated substantial resources and millions of dollars to address environmental concerns on property throughout downtown which includes Parramore.
Environmental assessments and necessary remediation has been part of the construction of the Amway Center, soccer stadium, fire station #2 and the Creative Village.”