City of West Miami Unanimously Passes Fertilizer Ordinance

On Wednesday, September 16, 2020, the City of West Miami Commission unanimously passed a fertilizer ordinance on second reading incorporating all proposed amendments from Miami Waterkeeper. The City previously moved to pass a fertilizer ordinance in accordance with FDEP Florida Friendly Fertilizer Ordinance requirements, but Miami Waterkeeper worked with Planning and Zoning Director Juan Pena to review and propose strengthening measures to further curb nutrient pollution in our waterways. Excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can enter our waterways after excessive and inappropriate fertilizer use, which can lead to algae blooms and adverse impacts to marine life and habitat.

Miami Waterkeeper Dr. Rachel Silverstein speaks in favor of amending the City's proposed ordinance.

 

The City of West Miami’s new ordinance incorporates a summer ban on fertilizer application for fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus, a 15-foot fertilizer-free zone setback from storm drains and waterways, a 0% phosphorus provision, and a 50% slow-release nitrogen provision for fertilizers containing nitrogen. Each of these measures is an important and impactful step to ensure a reduced likelihood of nutrient runoff into our waterways.


Waves of Change: Miami Waterkeeper's 10th Anniversary Docu-Series Event!

Miami Waterkeeper is turning 10! We're excited to announce our virtual 10th Anniversary Event taking place on October 6th-8th, 2020. Celebrate a decade of water wins with us through a 3-part Docu-Series video release! 

 


Consensus Statement on Fish Kill and Algae Bloom in Biscayne Bay

Biscayne Bay is a jewel of our state and the treasured community backyard of Miami. Biscayne Bay generates billions of dollars annually, fueling an active clean water-based economy of real estate, tourism, boating, fishing, sailing, and more. The Bay is a designated Outstanding Florida Water, and hosts the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, the Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area, and Biscayne National Park. It is also home to over a dozen threatened and endangered species.

On August 10th, a widespread and severe fish kill was observed in northern Biscayne Bay. Reports of dead wildlife, with some fish observed struggling to breathe, were recorded from a wide area within and around northern Biscayne Bay over the following five days.  Reports spanned from the Julia Tuttle Causeway to Miami Shores and east to North Bay Village and Pelican Harbor Seabird Station. Dozens of species were impacted, including toadfish, pufferfish, barracuda, rays, snook, eels, and lobsters.  The size and severity of this fish kill appear unparalleled for Biscayne Bay. This is not a “normal” occurrence, but rather a sign that the ecosystem of Biscayne Bay is seriously out of balance.

Available data point to the immediate cause of the fish kill being low dissolved oxygen (DO) events. Low DO conditions often result from too much nutrient pollution, which fuels the growth of algae and bacteria. Algal and bacterial growth are fueled by the buildup of nutrients, especially phosphorous and nitrogen, from pollution inputs such as sewage leaks, septic tank leachate, stormwater runoff, and fertilizer overuse. As a result, both chronic and acute pollution inputs are likely the ultimate driver of the fish kill.


County & Miami DDA Join Environmental Stakeholders In Addressing Back Bay Study Pitfalls

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a $4.6 billion investment to address storm surge risk in our region. This proposal, called the "Back Bay Study," proposes a range of "grey" infrastructure options like seawalls and flood gates, but largely leaves out nature-based solutions like mangrove and restoration and living shorelines. You can read the full proposal HERE.

Miami-Dade County as well as the Miami Downtown Development Authority (Miami DDA) recently submitted formal letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) advocating for nature-based features (NNBF) as alternatives to the Corps’ proposed seawalls and flood gates as well as consideration of the detrimental economic impact of such grey infrastructure. Both the County and Miami DDA’s letters echo some of the concerns of community partners, including Miami Waterkeeper. The Miami DDA's letter also includes renderings visualizing the differences among proposed seawalls and nature-based alternatives. 

(Source: Back Bay Proposal Renderings, provided by Miami DDA)


Fish Kill and Algae Bloom in Biscayne Bay

We are passing a tipping point for the Bay not being able to support any life -- literally overnight, the Bay became a deadzone. On Monday morning, August 10th, Miami Waterkeeper’s samplers and members of the public encountered about a dozen dead fish while conducting our weekly fecal indicator bacteria monitoring at Morningside Park. Miami-Dade County DERM monitoring groups conducted their routine monthly sampling nearby, noted very high water temperature (~90 F), and low dissolved oxygen levels. Many species of fish and marine life have been killed, including pufferfish, toadfish, eels, shrimp, trunkfish, pinfish, lizardfish, hogchoker, hogfish, barracuda, parrotfish, angelfish, blue crab, horseshoe crab, seahorses, octopus, lobster, grunts, mangrove snapper and more. 

(Fish kill near Morningside Park, Miami, FL. Source: Kathryn Mikesell)

(Map of community reports of fish kill impacts, updated in real-time. Red dots are fish kill reports; Green dots are algae bloom reports)

 

 

The kill seems to have an epicenter near Morningside Park, but dead fish have been seen from North Miami to Virginia Key. We notified the proper agencies and are sending water samples to FWC to check for harmful algae bloom toxins. Many species of fish were killed, including pufferfish, toadfish, eels, shrimp, trunkfish, pinfish, lizardfish, hogchoker, and more. 

On August 12, 2020, Pelican Harbor Seabird Station reported an aggregation of rays nearshore. Scientists believe that this aggregation may be due to low oxygen levels in the water, making it hard for the rays to breathe. Agencies are working on a rapid response to avoid a ray die-off in this area. View the video here

(Photo credit: Christopher Boykin)

On August 15, 2020, Miami Waterkeeper mobilized an emergency aeration effort for Biscayne Bay. In coordination with Miami Dade County and PortMiami, fireboats were sent to oxygen-starved areas of the Bay. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that this was an effective temporary measure. Oxygen readings from those areas increased by 30% in the direct vicinity of the fireboats and increased by 15% approximately 100 yards from the boats' aeration areas. In the days that followed, the City of Miami mobilized an emergency aeration response by converting stormwater pumps to help aerate nearshore areas throughout the City, including hot spot locations such as Morningside Park. Anecdotally, these aeration efforts seemed to have been effective as a temporary measure to increase oxygen in these areas. 

(Photo credit: Christy Raynor)

Volunteers and members of our 1,000 Eyes on the Water Rapid Response team quickly rose to scientists' plea for help to remove dead and decaying marine life and organic matter from the water. Decaying marine life produces bacteria which can also consume oxygen from the water column, making even less oxygen available for living marine life. Volunteers removed hundreds of pounds of dead fish from shorelines in dozens of locations in the fish kill impact area. Fertile Earth Worm Farm also mobilized and placed compost bins to collect the dead fish from key locations to assist with removal efforts. 

(Photo credit: Cody Eggenberger)

Conditions appeared to be improving by mid-week. However, by August 20, 2020 residents began to report incidents of strange foam accumulating at the water's surface. This foam was white in nature and also changed color to brown. By August 21, 2020, we began to receive reports of sweeping amounts of foam across Biscayne Bay and by late in the day -- we determined that many areas of the Bay and adjoining canals and waterways were already experiencing algae bloom events. Algae blooms appear to be concentrated in the North Bay area between the Broad Causeway and the 79th Street Causeway. Miami Waterkeeper has been coordinating responses to this algae bloom event with scientists and officials from FIU, UM, NOAA, FDEP, Miami Dade County DERM, City of Miami, North Bay Village, Miami Shores, and the City of Miami Beach. 

(Photo credit: Adam Cohen)


Miami Waterkeeper Participates in FIU's 'Sustaining Miami's Waters' Panel

On July 29th, 2020, our very own Waterkeeper, Rachel Silverstein, joined panelists in the ‘Sustaining Miami’s Waters’ webinar. Hosted by FIU Institute of Environment and the City of Miami, this one-hour discussion covered the challenges of sustaining Miami's properties and yards, and elaborated on what the community can do to protect our environment, way of life, and drinking water quality.


MWK Joins Comment on EPA’s Discretionary Approval Under Clean Water Act Section 404

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has attempted to assume regulatory authority of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): the section which requires permits for any discharge of dredge and fill materials into Waters of the U.S., including rivers, canals, and wetlands. To assume authority of the Section 404 program, a state must provide the EPA with a number of statements, memos, and an approval request before submitting to a review period. During this process, the FDEP requested EPA consultation as to Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7, claiming its CWA Section 404 assumption required such a consultation. But the EPA doesn’t think so.

Wetlands in Boynton Beach, FL (Source: The Mitigation Banking Group, Inc.)


Miami Waterkeeper and Co-Plaintiffs Submit Initial Brief for FPL Turkey Point Appeal

FPL received original operating licenses for its two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point Power Plant in 1972 and 1973 from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which functions under the authority of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA). In 2002, with the expiration of the original licenses only 10 years away, the NRC granted FPL initial 20-year license renewals for its two nuclear reactors. In 2018, Turkey Point became the first nuclear power plant in the country to apply for and receive a subsequent license renewal, doubling the plant’s original operating time and extending it into the 2050s.

(Source: Sun-Sentinel)

 


MWK to Continue Water Quality Testing with Village of Key Biscayne

Miami Waterkeeper is excited to announce our contract renewal with Key Biscayne for water quality testing! We have a record of success collaborating with the Village of Key Biscayne including the past year of water quality sampling, which produced 215 data points from 3 sites. Past collaborations with the Village include our summer Senior Ambassador program, volunteer cleanups, and other educational events. Our efforts with the Village Council on issues such as a straw ban and water quality protections are also a testament to our connections to the Key Biscayne community. 

The renewed plan will keep the public informed about water quality on Key Biscayne by testing three sites weekly to analyze Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB) enterococci. FIB is often used as a proxy for swimming safety - it can be easily cultured in a lab and ultimately help predict human health risks associated with contaminated waters.

 


Ft. Lauderdale Receives Largest Fine in State History for Sewage Spills

Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs), commonly known as ‘sewage leaks,’ have continued to be a problem for South Florida due to our aging sewage infrastructure. Miami-Dade is not the only County in South Florida that’s been plagued with crumbling sewage infrastructure --  Broward County is also victim to a system that is cracked, leaking, and ultimately welcoming raw sewage into local waterways. Combined, Miami-Dade and Broward County have seen tens of millions of gallons of sewage leak into our waterways over the past several years.

Raw sewage infiltrating the streets of Broward County (Source: Sun-Sentinel).


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HomeMiami Waterkeeper is a South Florida Environmental Group that advocates for Swimmable, Drinkable, Fishable water for all. Working on sea rise, water pollution, coral reef protection, and water issue education.