water quality blog

How Much Sediment Can Corals Tolerate?

Earlier this month, Miami Waterkeeper, along with Waterkeepers across Florida, took part in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) comprehensive review of all water quality standards for the state of Florida, called the Triennial Review. The Clean Water Act requires all states to conduct a comprehensive review of all water quality standards every three years. In response to the Triennial Review, the public has the opportunity to recommend revisions and provide input on Florida water quality standards. This process directly affects our water quality.

Miami Waterkeeper has made several formal comments regarding the draft revised turbidity criterion. Turbidity is suspended sediment in the water, which can shade or smother corals and seagrass. This rule will regulate how much sediment can be in the water during dredging and construction projects. This is crucial because dredging can cause widespread ecosystem impacts from suspending sediment, as occurred in the PortMiami dredging project when over 560,000 corals were killed by sediment.

Changing this standard is crucial to protecting corals and seagrasses. We are pleased that FDEP recognized that the existing standard is not protective of our coral reefs and is proposing more strict standards to protect sensitive environments such as reefs and seagrasses from sediment produced by dredging. However, we are still recommending further clarity in the regulations to prevent loopholes. We need YOU to weigh in during the next public comment period too! Stay tuned for that.


It's also crucial that FDEP examine possible connections between dredging sediment and coral disease when assessing risks associated with turbidity. Research presented by Dr. Michael Studivan and Dr. Ian Enochs to the Disease Advisory Committee demonstrated that there are serious indications that suspended sediments increase the rate of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. The research implicated suspended sediments as a vector of this disease.

Read the full technical comment HERE.

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