By David Fleshler
Staff Writer - Sun-Sentinel
Posted February 22 2003
Accused of damaging houses with powerful mining blasts, the limestone
quarries of western Miami-Dade County soon may have to pay compensation
Bills in the state Legislature would set up a claims process for
people who blame blasting for cracked floors, splintered walls and other
damage to their homes. The bills would require mediation and allow
claims to go before a state administrative law judge -- more practical
options for homeowners than going to court.
Located along Florida's Turnpike, the huge limestone quarries supply
the ingredients for cement, asphalt and other construction materials.
They ship their products by truck and rail all over the state and employ
about 7,000 people.
But the explosions used to break up limestone have infuriated
homeowners in Miramar and western Miami-Dade County.
"Yesterday, we had a very strong blast again," said Trudy Sidlauskas,
of the Silver Lakes section of Miramar. "Everything
rattled and shook in my house."
The Florida Construction Materials Mining Activities Act, which has
bipartisan support, would require mining companies to post a bond of at
least $100,000 before blasting. It would require damage claims to go
first to a mediator to see whether they could be resolved quickly and
informally. If that fails, it calls for both sides to go before a state
administrative law hearing, where the strict rules of evidence would not
"It's cheaper than court; it's faster than court," said Sen. Rod
Smith, D-Gainesville, co-sponsor of the bill. "If your claim is less
than $100,000, you get paid in 30 days."
Under current law, homeowners who have suffered damages have only the
option of going to court -- a lengthy and expensive process.
The bills have provisions to which homeowners may object. If
mediation fails and the case goes to an administrative hearing, the
loser would have to pay the other side's costs, up to $15,000. The bills
would do nothing to reduce the blasts' intensity. Since taking control
of blasting from local governments in 2000, the state has allowed more
powerful explosions, angering many homeowners.
"If you replace your tile floors, they're going to crack again, if
the blasting continues at the high intensity," said Sidlauskas, who is
trying to organize people in Miramar against the blasting. "The first
thing you need to do is reduce the intensity of the blasts, and then we
can get reimbursement."
The bills stand a good chance of passing. They have support from both
sides, and one of the co-sponsors is powerful Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port
St. Lucie, chairman of the Senate budget committee.
Kerri Barsh, attorney for the four biggest mining companies, said the
bill "represents a compromise between the desire for some of the
citizens for a claims process vs. the desire of the industry to have
such claims resolved more expeditiously and in a less costly, more
Michael Pizzi, president of Citizens Against Blasting and a Miami
Lakes city councilman, said the bill needed some work but would be a big
improvement over the current situation.
"For the first time in history, it gives the homeowner some mechanism
to try and be compensated. It provides a process where homeowners will
get their claims adjudicated by an objective third party, where no
process had previously existed."
David Fleshler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or