Leaders hold virtual town hall discussing ways to save Biscayne Bay

The critical state of Biscayne Bay was the urgent issue being addressed during a virtual town hall on Tuesday.

MIAMI – The critical state of Biscayne Bay was the urgent issue being addressed during a virtual town hall on Tuesday.

South Florida residents are extremely concerned with the fragile state of Biscayne Bay after the massive fish kill and devastating algae flow seen last month in the north section of the bay.

City and county leaders have been feeling the heat to take urgent corrective action to restore the bay before it’s too late.

“Sadly, the recent fish kill and algal blooms gave everyone in our community a snap shot of what that looked like, and how it affects everything not just our health but also our economy,” said Biscayne Bay Task Force Chair Irela Bague.

Tuesday’s event was moderated by Local 10′s Louis Aguirre and sponsored by Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.

“I am not sure how much more our Biscayne Bay can take,” said Cava.

On hand were the scientists and environmental advocates on the front lines fighting to save the bay from the devastating flow of nutrients from land-based pollution, which is killing acres of seagrasses and feeding algae.

“The seagrass that’s really close to shore are being impacted by that ground water born nutrients that’s coming out of everybody’s septic tank,” said Dr. Jim Fourqurean, seagrass expert at the FIU Institute of the Environment

At the forefront of the problem is Miami-Dade’s broken infrastructure, sewage spills from an aging system and even more pressing, the county’s more than 100,000 septic tanks that continuously spew waste into our ground water that flows directly into the bay.

“We need to do both, look at wastewater infrastructure and make sure it is up to snuff and for areas where we currently have septic systems where they are not working, we need to look to extend the sewer system,” said Lee Hefty, Director of DERM.

Commissioner Cava said that plan is already happening, with Miami-Dade Water and Sewage Department allocating funds to connect some of their lines to most the critical homes with problematic septic tanks, greatly reducing the cost to home owners.

“Obviously we can’t overnight convert all septic to sewer, so we have to triage and prioritize those that are creating the biggest problem,” said Cava.

As for the broken sewer system, it’s currently undergoing a $1.6 billion upgrade that the county must complete by 2028.

Commissioner Levine Cava will also be proposing a fertilizer ordinance at the next commission meeting, banning fertilizer use countywide during the wet and rainy months, that only adds more deadly nutrients into the groundwater that feeds the bay.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez must also address how he plans to implement the recommendations set forth by the Biscayne Bay Task Force. That meeting is set for Oct. 6.

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.