Turning from highway U.S. 1 onto Grand Avenue, visitors to Coconut Grove meet with a view of the Miami-Dade Fire Fighting Training College, built on the former site of the City of Miami Incinerator #2. Colloquially known as Old Smokey, the municipal solid waste incinerator loomed over the historically Jim Crow segregated West Coconut Grove community for decades. Clouds of ash and toxic fumes became commonplace in the West Grove from 1925 to 1970, and much of the refuse from Old Smokey’s 300-ton-per-day operation was buried locally on the sites of what are now parks and schools.
Old Smokey - photo courtesy of Bob Mack, photographer. Miami News Collection, HistoryMiami, 1989-011-8576.
The Center for Ethics and Public Service at Miami Law discovered City records of contamination at the Fire Training College in 2013, through an investigation into the City’s siting of a Trolley Garage bus depot in the community. To date, the City of Miami has failed to fully remediate or inform the residents of the dangers of the incinerator ash contamination pervading parks, schools, and homes. This year, the Environmental Justice Clinic interns have taken several significant steps towards litigating the Old Smokey case: conducting a thorough fact investigation; composing a comprehensive complaint against the City of Miami and beginning litigation planning with a team of pro bono attorneys.
According to Environmental Justice Clinic Intern Kiana Courtney, “My time with the Clinic has been incredible. I have learned so much from working with the community and from our team. The skills that we have taken away from this experience are invaluable. I look forward to being a fellow next year and continuing this work.”