Report: Beckham stadium site has unsafe arsenic levels

An environmental analysis shows the proposed site for David Beckham's Major League Soccer stadium in Miami is far more toxic than previously expected

MIAMI -- An environmental report poses a new problem for the proposed site of David Beckham's Major League Soccer stadium in Miami: Tests show the soil is far more toxic than expected.

"This is the largest contaminated park in the city's portfolio," said Miami City Commission Chairman Ken Russell. "This is a concern."

The worse-than-expected findings were reported on Monday to city commissioners. A day later, Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez announced that Melreese would be closed until further notice to allow further environmental testing. The golf course will be reopened pending a favorable analysis, the statement read.

The environmental firm EE&G, hired by Inter Miami, took more than 140 soil samples in recent months. Apart from the arsenic, it found barium and lead levels above legal limits.

"The debris included fragments of tile, metal and glass, mixed with fine-grain sands, which often exhibited a rusty color," EE&G found. "Intermittent wood fragments were encountered along with concrete and other non-native materials, but not evidence of municipal garbage."

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said he was glad the site was tested, and said the city has chosen another consulting firm, AECOM, to conduct its own analysis of the findings. The firm also will be paid by Inter Miami.

"Basically, the site has significantly more contamination than what is commercially reasonable," Suarez said.

The findings could increase cleanup costs to $50 million at the site, team officials told Suarez. The Herald reported that it wasn't clear whether the added cost would make the plans for a stadium and commercial complex unfeasible. Inter Miami said it would not seek city dollars to pay for the cleanup.

The environmental concerns come as the city negotiates a 99-year lease for a commercial complex that would allow a 25,000-seat stadium, office park, a shopping center, and soccer fields on the roof of a parking structure. Miami voters gave city officials permission in November to negotiate the deal.

Inter Miami's lawyers are expecting to propose a lease on Sept 12, and the terms would need the approval of four of five commissioners.