Miami Waterkeeper applauds the City of Miami for unanimously passing a resolution on septic to sewer conversion. This resolution called for increased funding for septic to sewer conversion projects within the City of Miami. The resolution likewise recognized the environmental and public health threat that septic tanks pose in our community. Getting South Florida off septic tanks and onto a public sewer system is key to keeping our waterways clean. Septic tanks are a source of pollution in South Florida - even when functioning properly. Our public sewer systems are more equipped to manage wastewater and flooding threats.
At this same City Commission meeting on Thursday, September 24, 2020, the City of Miami also took action to protect Biscayne Bay from pollution caused by dirty stormwater runoff. The commission passed an ordinance that begins the process of stiffening penalties on construction site pollution. Pollution from construction sites is a contributing cause of sediment build-up in Biscayne Bay. Excess sedimentation can cause die-offs of seagrass and can contribute to ecosystem declines such as the fish kill that erupted in North Bay this summer. According to our Waterkeeper Dr. Rachel Silverstein, “we have lost more than 80 percent of seagrass in some parts of Biscayne Bay.” Construction permit holders routinely violate the City code by dumping wastewater into street drains or not properly managing on-site stormwater runoff. The ordinance, sponsored by Commissioner Ken Russell, instructs the city manager to review ways of increasing penalties for these egregious code violations.
While we support this legislation, Miami Waterkeeper encourages the City to keep addressing the stormwater pollution problem. Routine inspections of locations with stormwater permits and penalties for noncompliance can help protect Miami’s vital water resources. We recommend the City codify the requirements of the Stormwater Master Plan–including the Best Management Practices outlined in the plan for general operation and maintenance as well as BMPs for design infrastructure and new projects. The City should increase the frequency of street sweeping and storm drain cleaning, as well as require grates on every storm drain. We need a holistic approach to curtailing pollution from stormwater!