MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A recent virtual Miami Dade County Commission Meeting was flooded with concerned residents.
They were voicing their support for a county-wide ordinance that limits the use of fertilizers during the rainy months of May through September, and 15 feet from a storm drain or body of water.
“Reducing fertilizer use throughout the county is necessary in order to begin addressing the nutrient pollution in the bay, which is killing our wildlife and making our waterways unusable,” one resident said.
The ordinance proposed by Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava passed unanimously on a first read and is a major victory for the environmental watch dog group Miami Waterkeeper, which has been lobbying for this for years.
“This would be the strongest fertilizer ordinance in the state,” said Dr. Rachel Silverstein, Executive Director of Miami Waterkeeper. “The fertilizer ordinance is a key first step, it’s a win- win. It’s going to make a huge impact on the bay, and we need to do it now.”
The ordinance provides teeth to similar fertilizer bans already passed by City of Miami, North Bay Village and Key Biscayne. It’s an immediate response to the unprecedented, massive fish kill and algae bloom in August that devastated the northern section of Biscayne Bay.
Irela Bague is the outgoing chair of the Biscayne Bay task force, which last month presented its final report to the mayor and county commission with more than 60 recommendations of urgent action.
“Water is life here, we can’t live without it,” Bague said. “Us being a mecca of tourism, we have to keep our waters clean and our beaches clean.”
The county must now take action to restore health to the bay that is already at a critical tipping point.
I feel very encouraged by the acceptance of our report and the actions they have taken since then," Bague said.
The fertilizer ordinance is by no means a silver bullet that will save Biscayne Bay by itself, but it’s a big step forward in reducing the enormous of amounts of deadly nutrients from land based pollution that mostly come from septic and sewage leaks that are constantly flowing into the bay.
“This moment is so important, because it’s our last call,” Bague said. “The problem now is that we have no more time, so take this report and start implementing it.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez was supposed to address the county’s plan on implementing the task force recommendations, but was not at the commission meeting to present his report.
“I am concerned, very concerned, very frustrated, that this is the oral report, and the mayor is not here,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. “We are pending all those overdue reports that are so vital to making the decisions to how we move forward.”
The mayor is now expected to release his report on Oct. 20.