MIAMI – As the rainy season and summer months approach, there is real concern of another fish kill in Biscayne Bay if we don’t get a handle on all the pollution that still flows into the watershed.
As the county scrambles to upgrade infrastructure and address storm water treatment, it is every day South Florida residents who play a key role in this very important effort.
“I see it every day,” Miami resident Rigene Gomez said. “The water is getting hotter. There’s less fish, there’s less dolphins, there’s less sea grass, there’s more trash.”
Gomez is a water warrior.
“I definitely get angry,” he said. “And I just don’t understand why things aren’t changing.”
The former marine is now on a new mission, fighting for his backyard.
“Well, just like in the military, I felt that I needed to put myself in the situation to help and solve this problem,” Gomez said.
Armed with a drone and an iPhone, Gomez documents all the bad stuff he sees flowing into the watershed from high atop the balcony of his Edgewater apartment.
“By documenting and letting the government know what’s going on, I can help solve this issue that we’re having in Miami,” he said.
Gomez is one of many soldiers self-recruited in this growing army of concerned every day citizens doing their part to save Biscayne Bay.
“The residents who live in these high rises, we’re starting to see how active our residents are becoming when we get reports,” said Irela Bague, Miami-Dade Chief Bay Officer.
Bague is leading the charge.
“It’s gonna take everyone’s effort. Everyone has a part to play,” she said.
Reporting pollution in the moment that it happens is vital.
One video was taken just a few weeks ago by another concerned resident when strong winds blew dozens of Styrofoam insulation blocks from the Missoni Baia site on Northeast 26th Terrace all over the bay.
“Somebody was probably hanging out on their balcony and saw those weird construction, Styrofoam blocks floating all on the bay, took video of it, and sent the report in,” Bague said.
County inspectors immediately responded and issued a cease and desist order until the remaining Styrofoam was secured and the blocks floating on the bay were recovered.
Still, days later, pieces of Styrofoam were found scattered everywhere along the shore.
Bague said the company was fined $500.
“Is that appropriate?” Local 10 News reporter Louis Aguirre asked.
“No,” she responded.
“Why aren’t those fines higher?” Aguirre asked.
“They should be,” Bague said.
Bague is fighting for that, but says if it weren’t for the swift actions of watchful citizens, this mess would’ve been far worse.
“Every member of the community can keep their eyes on the water and be a part of keeping the bay clean,” said Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper.
The clean water watchdog organization, Miami Waterkeeper is enlisting all South Florida residents to become engaged in this most important effort.
“One Thousand Eyes on the Water is a campaign that empowers the public to observe, document and report pollution that you might see going about your daily life,” Silverstein said.
On their website, Miami Waterkeeper offers a free online course on how to effectively watch over our water.
“So the program is really easy,” Silverstein said. “It’s fun and it will teach you what to look out for. As you’re going about your daily life, you never know what you could come across.”
When construction crews accidently drilled through a 60-inch sewer main last May in downtown Miami, it was the watchful eyes of residents who sounded the alarm.
“And so they potentially prevented a massive multi-million gallon sewage spill by reporting it and getting the information to us really quickly,” Silverstein said.
According to Silverstein, Miami Waterkeeper has had a 600% increase in public pollution reports in the last few years since the program began. That’s why it’s so important to grow it. After all, it is the very fate of Biscayne Bay that hangs in the balance, and that, says Gomez, should concern us all.
“One hundred percent I believe that if you live here you need to take care of your home, you need to take care of the water, because if not, you’re not going to have a home to live in soon,” he said.
If you see pollution or something strange in our bay and waterways, it is important you report it straight away. You can report pollution in the waterways by clicking here.
Click here to learn more about the 1,000 Eyes on the Water campaign.
Note: If using the 311 App or 311 Online, select “Environmental Complaint” as the category to enter a complaint.