Arsenic and Old Sludge: a Hollywood Environmental Story

Arsenic and Old Sludge: a Hollywood Environmental Story

“The owner has taken down an enormous amount of trees. What was all kinds of green now looks like a desert,” said Furr. “People are taken aback by what this owner has done.”

On Jan. 22 City Manager Wazir Ishmael sent an interoffice memo to the city commission detailing events. He said that heavy rains on Dec. 22 caused flooding that led to resident concerns about sludge dissipating into adjacent canals. State, county and city inspections quickly determined that a containment wall on the northern edge of the property was breached, sending flood water into a canal. 

The memo said Hollywood notified the owner “of an immediate need to shore up the barrier for other possible future weather events and to aerate the finger canal, which has been discolored due to the flow of material from the site.” 

The engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer was hired to assess the situation.  The memo says the firm reported that it is “common industry practice to use water treatment plant lime sludge” for remediation and that Florida has determined that it “is not a threat to public health or the environment.” Site tests for the pilot plan confirmed “that the materials being used are non-hazardous and are safe for land application.”

City resident Karen Caputo is president of the Friends of Hollywood. She is suspicious about the impact of the lime sludge.

Arsenic and Old Sludge: a Hollywood Environmental Story
Arsenic and Old Sludge: a Hollywood Environmental Story

In an email to the Hollywood Gazette, she wrote, “Mixing soil with pure lime sludge is preparation for foundations and roads, not for a park.  The cost of preparing the land for a park after using this method for remediation of the arsenic is going to assure that we never have more than a dirty pond and an admixture nothing will grow in.” 

Hollywood has been looking to buy the old golf course since last March, when city voters passed a $165-million general obligation bond to fund a variety of city-wide public improvement projects. That includes $64 million for parks, open spaces, recreational and cultural spaces – including the purchase of the former Sunset Golf Course.

Richgreens acquired the land in 2016. In 2017, the company attempted to open Hollywood Adventures Park. The Hollywood Gazette reported that November that it was meant to be “a multifaceted park intended to provide a variety of active and passive sports for kids and adults, from walking paths to paintball.” 

Arsenic and Old Sludge: a Hollywood Environmental Story
Arsenic and Old Sludge: a Hollywood Environmental Story

The Planning and Zoning Board, however, voted not to approve a zoning variance. 

The property is zoned as an open space district. According to the newspaper article, an open space district is “intended to provide standards for privately owned uses which are characterized by large open spaces. The intent is to preserve and protect areas having natural beauty and to mitigate the effects of development on the environment.” 

Hollywood residents who are part of Save Former Sunset Golf Course want the city to use its power of eminent domain to purchase the land.

Commissioner Furr supports the city buying the property, but “I don’t want them to gouge the city.” He said the use of eminent domain would be appropriate.

“This would be a good candidate because of the public benefit that would come from being able to alleviate flooding,’’ Furr said. “Let it be a water storage area.” 

This story was a collaboration between Florida Bulldog and the Hollywood Gazette.

About Dan Christensen
Dan is the editor and founder of the Florida Bulldog. He is an award-winning former investigative reporter for The Miami Herald and Daily Business Review, and one of South Florida’s most experienced reporters. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science from the University of Miami.

About Benjamin Paley
Paley is an editor and reporter for Hollywood Gazette and Library Assistant at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law where he is also a student working on his Juris Doctor. He earned his Master of Public Administration degree in 2018 and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Government.

Author: Amanda Jones
Author: Amanda Jones

Amanda Jones specializes in social media marketing. She holds a Master's degree in Social Media Management from the University of Florida and a Social Media Professional Certificate from the University of Miami.


Join our mailing list to receive the latest news directly in your email inbox.