Since BBWK started gathering expert reports and meeting with government agencies in October, things have been moving at a rapid pace. These past couple weeks have moved even faster. On Monday May 13, we sent a letter from 16 organizations asking that EPA and Miami-Dade take a holistic approach to address these sewage issues (Read the letter here: Letter to Mayor Gimenez and Ms. Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming copy). On Tuesday, May 14th, we won our hearing and were granted intervenor status in the DOJ’s enforcement case. This gave both County and DOJ/EPA further incentive to get the settlement agreement (consent decree) passed in the County Commission. They passed the consent decree despite all of the information we provided showing the consent decree is contrary to the County’s and EPA’s own stated initiatives goals about infrastructure resilience, especially post super-storm Sandy. BBWK tried to speak at the BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) hearing but our request was denied. BBWK urged the County Commission to follow a “stitch in time saves 9″ approach and get the consent decree in much better form before approving it. Read the Miami Herald article about the county commissioners’ approval of the consent decree here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/21/3407080/miami-dade-commissioners-to-take.html
As always BBWK supports much needed attention to our sewage infrastructure that has been delayed far too long. We must implement the funding needed to begin to just fix the absolute immediate fixes. Our suggestion is for a bifurcated Consent Decree – first part dealing with immediate fixes to a decrepit system, the second addressing broader, more holistic issues of resiliency and best possible planning. The last consent decree in 1994/95 was also in two phases.
Meanwhile, two sewage spills occurred this week. (Here is a list of sewage spills since June 2012) This is not a new issue – this is something Miami-Dade should have been dealing with for over a decade. We cannot keep growing our city without growing and improving our infrastructure as well.
Huffington Post released an article today that looks at the impact of sewage overflow from Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey. The article points out how storm surge will result in overflow events and how rising sea levels will only exacerbate these events resulting in more severe discharges.
The 11 billion gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage spilled due to storm surge in New York and New Jersey must be seen as a warning for all coastal cities. We must consider this warning as we rebuild Miami-Dade’s sewage system. As sea levels rise storm surges will increase in intensity and frequency. Miami-Dade’s facilities must be built to withstand these storm surges to avoid the kind of spills seen in the northeast.
“Princeton, N.J.-based Climate Central said that future sewage leaks are a major risk because rising sea levels can make coastal flooding more severe…The collective overflows – almost all in New York and New Jersey and due to storm surges – would be enough to cover New York City’s Central Park with a pile of sewage 41 feet high, Climate Central said.”
Read More Here:
Sandy Sewage Report: 11 Billion Gallons Of Untreated or Partially Treated Waste Was Released. www.huffingtonpost.org
On April 9, 2013 Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, along with 131 other organizations, undersigned a letter to the United States Senate urging them to oppose advancing the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601). This letter, put together by the Water Protection Network, points out significant problems in this bill:
“Particularly troubling are the streamlining provisions (Sections 2033 and 2032) which will force agency staff to make uninformed decisions, to rubber stamp unacceptable projects, and prioritize deadline compliance over effective review. They do this by:
Requiring the Corps of Engineers to carry out the shortest review possible; Establishing arbitrary and unreasonably short deadlines for the public and resource agencies to comment;
Establishing arbitrary deadlines for resource agency decisions and recommendations;
Allowing the Corps to elevate multiple technical and substantive disagreements all the way to the President; and
Directing the Corps to impose multiple and ongoing fines on resource agencies that miss deadlines or disagree with the Corps on issues fully within the expertise of the resource agencies.
These provisions also could give the Corps control over reviews that are clearly outside of its jurisdiction, including consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, review under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and reviews under laws governing activities in coastal areas and public lands.
Additionally, the bill threatens to exacerbate our nation’s fiscal deficits by rolling back long- established cost-sharing rules and expanding federal responsibilities into areas that have been the financial responsibility of non-federal project sponsors. If enacted as reported, the bill will result in overspending, overcapacity, and substantial and unnecessary damage to the nation’s major estuaries and harbors. Title VIII of the bill would immediately more than double spending on harbor maintenance without assurance of the cost-effectiveness or true need for the dredging. In addition, the Title eliminates the current 50 percent non-federal cost share for maintaining deep draft harbors from 45 to 50 feet of depth, making these costs 100 percent federal responsibility. The provision also makes dredging and maintenance of all approach channels to berths along federal navigation channels and all upland confined disposal of contaminated dredged sediments a 100 percent federal responsibility, rather than the current 100 percent non-federal responsibility. No one has ever even estimated the costs of such an expansion. This would likely cause increases in dredging of contaminated areas that otherwise never would have been contemplated, increasing toxic releases into the nation’s bays and estuaries. We strongly urge rejection of this title as representing a major setback for the nation’s water policy that will be both environmentally-damaging and represents an improper shift of spending and water project responsibility to the taxpayers.”
For more information on the 2013 WRDA see: http://www.waterprotectionnetwork.org/sitepages/downloads/WRDA_2013_NWF_Memo_EPW_Committee_3-18-13_Final.pdf
It is difficult to consider ourselves surrounded by nature in Miami, FL. In the city, on the interstate, or in the supermarket it is easy to think of ourselves removed from the nature of Muir’s Yosemite or Thoreau’s Walden pond. An essay called “Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature” by Jenny Price, suggests that we reconsider how we think about nature in our city. She writes about nature in L.A., but her message applies to all cities.
Miami is confronted with a decrepit sewage system and the problems that this system is causing for the health of our environment. Our connection to nature is real whether we recognize it or not. We must consider difficult questions like “how are we connected to the nature around us?”, “how do we affect the health of the nature around us?”, and “how do we depend on the nature around us?”. As we move into a future full of challenges like Climate Change these questions are going to become more and more important.
I would encourage everyone to read this article by Jenny Price:
As Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper reflects on a successful clean-up this past week-end, it seems appropriate to consider another clean-up that happened two weeks ago.
On Sunday, March 3rd, Sean Bignami, was jogging on Virginia Key and came across an enormous pile of trash left over from the 9 mile music festival the night before.
Sean spoke with staff who where standing around the festival site who said they could not pick up the trash because the wind was blowing it around. Sean took pictures and videos of the scene with his phone and posted them online along with a request that people join him the next day to help clean up the area.
Four graduate students joined Sean the following morning and picked up enough trash to fill 25 garbage bags!
Sean was unable to get a satisfactory response from the festival supervisor or the Miami parks department regarding accountability for this trash or penalties for the negligence on the part of the festival organizers.
The systems in place that are designed to prevent the festival from leaving piles of trash failed, and it is unclear if the festival will be held accountable. Regardless of this failure, the immediate response from concerned residents must be seen as a message to institutions who ignore the sanctity of our Bay. Biscayne Bay is home to concerned stewards, like Sean Bignami, who will not stand quietly while polluters leave trash on our shores.
Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper wishes to celebrate the stewardship shown in this story. Thank you Sean, and all who came out to help clean up after the 9 mile festival left their trash to be blown into the Bay!
See the article Miami Newtimes blog posted about this story here:
On Sunday, March 17, 2013, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper and Sierra Club put on a clean-up at Peacock Park in the Grove. Volunteers paddled nearby waters and gathered a huge amount of trash. Thank you to the stewards of Biscayne Bay who volunteered their time to put a dent in the amount of trash in our waters.
Thank you for a successful clean-up!
There is plenty of trash to pick up in Biscayne Bay.
Join Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper and the Sierra Club this Sunday, March 17th, for a paddle clean up at Peacock Park in the Grove (2820 Mcfarland Road, Miami, FL 33133). The clean up will start at 9 am and end at 2 pm. We will launch next to the boardwalk. Please bring your own gloves and trash bags. The Sierra club has a limited number of canoes, so we are encouraging attendees to bring their own kayaks, canoes, or paddle boards. If you do not have a boat, please contact Mark at Sierra Club to reserve a canoe. (contact Mark with any questions: email@example.com/ 305 632 7514)
(Miami, February 28, 2013) - Samples of beach water collected at Dog Beach on Virginia Key did not meet the recreational water quality standard for enterococci. By state regulation, the Florida Department of Health is required to issue an advisory to inform the public in a specific area when this standard is not met.
An advisory for Dog Beach on Virginia Key has been issued because two consecutive samples collected at the beach exceeded the federal and State recommended standard for enterococci (greater than 104 colony forming units per 100ml for a single sample).
Additional beach water samples at the Dog Beach on Virginia Key have been collected and further results are pending.
The advisory issued recommends not swimming at this location at this time. The results of the sampling indicate that water contact may pose an increased risk of illness, particularly for susceptible individuals.
The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County has been conducting marine beach water quality monitoring at 17 sites, including Dog Beach on Virginia Key, weekly since August 2002, through the Florida Healthy Beaches Program. The sampling sites are selected based on the frequency and intensity of recreational water use and the proximity to pollution sources. The water samples are being analyzed for enteric bacteria enterococci that normally inhabit the intestinal track of humans and animals, and which may cause human disease, infections, or illness. The prevalence of enteric bacteria is an indicator of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water run-off, wildlife, pets and human sewage. The purpose of the Florida Healthy Beaches program is to determine whether Florida has significant beach water quality concerns.
For more information please visit the Florida Healthy Beaches Program Website: http://www.doh.state.fl.us and Select “Beach Water Quality”, from the A-Z Topics List.
We just posted the second edition of the Paddle Out Guide. We are excited to be able to provide you with this updated material. Keep this guide close to your kayak or canoe as an aid in your exploration of our beautiful Biscayne Bay. We have posted the guide below for your convenience, but you can always find the Paddle Out Guide at bbwk.org/paddle-out. Go out and enjoy our Bay!
Thank you Julie for speaking at the Grassroots festival on behalf of BBWK
Thank you to everyone who came out to see Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper (BBWK) speak at the Sustainability Fair this weekend at the Grassroots festival!
Julie Dick, a BBWK representative, spoke about our current projects and initiatives, helping connect the festival to some of the issues that face the Bay that surrounded the event.
BBWK was invited to speak alongside the Center for Biological Diversity, Surfrider Miami, and the United States Green Building Council Florida Chapter. We are honored to have shared the stage with such great organizations.
Thousands of people attended the festival, many of whom camped along the water. We are happy such a festive event took place amidst the beauty of our Bay.