Images show Miami construction site polluting Biscayne Bay

MIAMI – Manatees in Biscayne Bay were recently forced to swim through silt plumes, sediment runoff from the construction site of Miami’s new signature bridge.

Albert Gomez, of the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition, said the images of the pollution coming from the site of the I-395/SR 836/I-95 project were disturbing. The construction is a partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

“If we keep allowing this to happen, we won’t have a bay anymore,” Gomez said on Friday. “We will have a dead body of water.”

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell said the state and Miami-Dade County officials rely on contractors to take the proper precautions. When the contractors fail, he said the government agencies need to be held accountable.

“When those pollutants get into the water they cover the grasses. Those grasses can’t breathe. They can’t see the sunlight. They can’t create oxygen and then die and fish die and manatee die,” Russell said.

Biscayne Bay is also home to bottlenose dolphins, Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit, Snook, Shark, Snapper, Groupe, and more native and nonnative fish.

The city issued citations to three FDOT locations. One of the citations was issued after a witness shared a photo showing a similar runoff along the Miami River. Miami-Dade County also issued its own waste dumping citation.

“You’re supposed to put barriers, vinyl barriers along the perimeter of the property,” Gomez said.

Russell said there also needs to be a baffle in the water to contain any spills.

“Apparently those were removed this last week as the project is almost done,” Russell said. “They weren’t expecting such a heavy rain.”

He said state authorities are cooperating and were committed to coming up with a plan to fix the problem.

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.