Workers at the Tequesta site are voicing their health and safety concerns about the 2,500 historical landmark
Archeologists working at the ancient Tequesta site have reported health concerns. Workers are voicing concerns after being exposed to benzene, arsenic, mercury, tungsten, and other toxic chemicals.
At least three workers have filed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaints. One against the Related Group, which owns the developing site, and two against PaleoWestwhich contracts the archeologists.
Read the concerns of workers at the Tequesta site, who shall remain nameless, and more in this news.
Underlying health risks at the excavation site
The 77 SE 5th St. is piling up with problems leading to health and environmental issues such as compulsive sneezing, fainting, rashes, and nausea. This site used to be a Standard Oil refinery, hence, the presence of toxic chemicals. Archeologists were trained in a health and safety course, and OSHA also paused the excavation process twice in between.
A worker who requested to remain nameless out of retaliation told Prism that the soil is thin and sandy. She said that they hit the aquifer after three or four inches of digging. They would pump out water, but it would fill back up within an hour, spreading chemicals.
She also recalled having to work hanging from their knees with their upper torsos stuck through holes. She said the smell of petroleum made her lightheaded, unable to eat, and nauseated. She was let go when she voiced her concerns with the management.
Another anonymous worker filed an OSHA complaint against PaleoWest for never being briefed about the protocols and safety precautions. He said that he became itchy and had rashes all over his body the next after digging at the site. He also had swollen lymph nodes, a lump in his throat, and trouble breathing. He was given a dressing down by HR and the site head for voicing safety concerns and was fired later.
The third worker at the Tequesta site also shared similar experiences of stomach pain, diarrhea, and loss of hunger. She said that developers funding these sites should first consider health concerns before bringing workers in.
Covering up the provenance of archeological finds
The Tequesta site project has uncovered millions of artifacts during the span of two years. From stone points and spearheads to human remains and wooden devices have been found on this site. According to one of the archeologists, it’s an important and lucrative site, but the developers are bulldozing it, which is offensive.
He said that the site should be turned into a government-protected site, museum, or archeological park. He also said that they’re covering up the significance of this site and its finds.
The indigenous communities, including Seminole, Miccosukee, and Taino, have demanded to preserve the site to respect their past. They also led a prayer walk where they called out the founder of Related Group, Jorge Perez, and even prayed for him to change.
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