Feb 22, 2023 - News

Doral residents say trash incinerator fire made them sick

Firefighters work to put out a fire at a trash incinerator plant in Doral.

Firefighters have worked around the clock to put out the blaze at the Doral trash incinerator plant. Photo: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue via Twitter

The trash fire that has been burning for over a week at the Covanta incinerator plant in Doral may have sickened some residents, who are reporting symptoms like dizziness, headaches and coughing.

  • "My husband and I have had headaches, numbness of lips and tongue all week," Diane Halibozek wrote in a Doral residents Facebook group Monday.
  • "Same in our house — headaches that have lasted for days! Migraine meds aren't even working. Coughing, asthma and sinus issues," another resident commented.

Catch up quick: Hundreds of firefighters have battled the incinerator fire around the clock since it began Feb. 12.

  • Last week, the fire produced large plumes of smoke that created "very unhealthy" levels of particle pollution, as documented by measurements taken by the Environmental Protection Agency at the site and published online by the county.

The latest: As of Tuesday, the fire was still smoldering, according to an update from Miami-Dade County.

  • The county said that smoke levels and air-quality readings have improved and that residents can enjoy outdoor activities, though they should head inside if they experience smoky conditions.

Between the lines: Breathing in particle pollution, which can include smoke or dirt, can be harmful to your health — especially if you have underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease, according to the CDC.

What they're saying: Chris Ghaemmaghami, Miami-Dade's chief medical officer, told Axios that air-quality readings show "the worst of this is over."

  • "It's entirely understandable that people would be concerned and that they could have some symptoms related to the exposure to the smoke," he said. But symptoms caused by particulate pollution exposure should not last long, he said.
  • "This is all going to be very short lived."

Yes, but: Some residents say they're unsure when they'll feel comfortable returning to normal activities.

  • Halibozek told Axios that she left town due to her symptoms and hasn't decided when she'll return.

Another resident, Mike Rivero, told Axios in an interview that he isn't rushing to get back to his morning routine of walking around his neighborhood because, as a cancer survivor, he is immunocompromised and doesn't want to be exposed to pollutants in the air.

  • "It's kind of like we're on lockdown," he said.
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