MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In a year marred by massive fish kills, local and state leaders are taking, what some consider, long overdue action to address the problems facing Biscayne Bay.
“Parts of Biscayne Bay actually turned into a dead zone this summer, when the oxygen levels dropped so low as a result of too much pollution building up in the bag and thousands and thousands of fish and other kinds of wildlife literally died overnight,” said Dr. Rachel Silverstein, the executive director of the non-profit organization Miami Waterkeeper.
The group has been at the forefront of research and community education efforts to protect the bay.
She said pollution, combined with the high water temperatures in the summer, created a perfect storm leading to the worst water conditions they had ever seen in that area.
“The main pollution sources that are impacting Biscayne Bay are septic tanks, or sewage infrastructure that has a lot of leaks, storm water runoff, and fertilizer,” said Silverstein.
“We know that over half of the septic tanks in Miami-Dade County are already vulnerable because of sea level rise and are really not working properly,” she continued. “So those are areas where the waste water is not being properly treated, and often times it’s near Biscayne Bay. It’s getting into the bay, and it’s bringing bacteria and it’s also bringing nutrients that lead to things like algae blooms.”
On Monday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Gov. Ron DeSantis announced they were addressing the major problems.
“We have seen the impacts of this crisis firsthand especially in recent months,” Levine Cava said during a news conference in Key Biscayne. “Our seagrass meadows are in retreat. There are algae blooms that are plaguing the formerly crystal-clear waters, and the fish kills were literally bringing the crisis off our shores vividly to the surface.”
Gov. DeSantis revealed a joint investment of $20 million to the preservation and restoration of Biscayne Bay.
“Ten million dollars will come from the state, and $10 million will come from Miami-Dade County,” DeSantis explained.
It will go toward infrastructure updates and new technology that will “predict and prevent sanitary sewer overflow.”
As Dr. Silverstein points out, there is a lot at stake.
“We could lose the fishing industry, the sailing, and all the recreation activities that take place in Biscayne Bay,” she said. “As well as the tourism and real estate that depend on having a beautiful bay.”
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Silverstein said she is hopeful this is a positive step in keeping the water clean, safe, and vibrant for years to come.
Money for match is coming from the state’s $625 million budget for water projects and the Everglades.
The county said they already have several projects in mind that will cost about $5 million, including converting more homes and businesses from septic tanks to the sewer system.