Virginia Key and Key Biscayne are barrier islands which are, by their nature, exposed to the elements.
On February 15, 2013 the Village of Key Biscayne sent Carlos Gimenez, Mayor of Miami, a letter asking Miami-Dade County to take another look at the plans to improve the central wastewater treatment plant located on Virginia Key. Key Biscayne is concerned that the plans do not adequately consider the impacts of climate change, such as increased sea levels and stronger storm surges, and do not include funding for flood mitigation. Considering Virginia Key is a barrier island, and therefor more vulnerable to weather and flooding, makes these oversights in planning for a wastewater treatment plant on this Key particularly alarming.
Key Biscayne supports the County’s immediate plans to address Clean Water Act outflow violations, deteriorated conditions at the Virginia Key facility, and of sewer lines identified as being at risk of rupturing, including the 54 inch under-bay line from Miami Beach to Fisher Island to Virginia Key. At the same time, the Village of Key Biscayne, situated just south of Virginia Key, is relying on the County to protect their natural environment. As long as infrastructure improvement plans do not address these long-term issues the residents of the adjacent island community of Key Biscayne will be understandably concerned for their quality of life. Key Biscayne is already plagued by foul odors from the central wastewater facility and occasional sewage spills.
Community voices like key Biscayne, calling for better sewage infrastructure, are the impetus for Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper’s legal initiatives for this issue. If the County will not address the concerns of local residential and business communities, or the needs of our fragile natural resources, then legal action may be the only way we can ensure that the County properly address these issues.
Biscayne Bay needs a certain amount of freshwater to maintain a healthy habitat for many of its estuarine wildlife.
In an effort to minimize the problem of suburban flooding, a new plan to restore much needed fresh water to the everglades may actually reduce the fresh water flow to Biscayne Bay, which is already starved of the freshwater it needs to maintain a healthy salinity.
Read the News Herald article on this critical water issue here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/15/3236643/glades-plan-could-siphon-water.html
Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper would like to offer a word of gratitude to Green Purchase Power for inviting us to speak at the Grassroots festival this past weekend.
Green Purchase Power is an organization that encourages environmental awareness, and pushes for sustainability through America’s favorite pastime, shopping. Green Purchase Power is also a proud supporter of Non-Profits, as they recognize the importance of volunteerism for success. They offer points to volunteers ( up to 3 times a year ) at any of their participating non-profit organizations at no cost.
We would like to encourage you to visit Green Purchase Power on
Or their website: www.greenpurchasepower.com
Waterkeeper Alliance, 350.org, and Sierra Club are leading a climate rally in our nation’s capitol this weekend. At 12 Noon on this Sunday, February 17, thousands of Americans will head to Washington, D.C. to make Forward on Climate the largest climate rally in history. Go to 350.org or waterkeeperalliance.org for more information.
On Saturday, Feb. 23, at 1:30 p.m. a Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper representative will be speaking at the Grassroots Festival about our organization and our current projects.
On January 19, 2013 BBWK received a citizen tip of a sewage leak in Key Biscayne. It was not until several people called the authorities that the county sent workers to come address the spill. BBWK normally receives County notices of a spill but on this occasion we did not receive a report. This lack of timely notice and response can increase health risks to citizens and increase pollution to waterways.
A local resident informed BBWK that this event occurred due to power failure at a pump station and that the reason the County did not respond quickly is because the alarm that alerts the central agency of a failure is also dependent on a power source. This kind of mismanagement is bad enough; but mismanagement of a sewage system in need of urgent repairs is unacceptable.
For our communities to thrive and grow, we cannot have sewage spilling in to our streets or waterways. We must call on the County to address this kind of mismanagement in a transparent and timely manner. For those of you who live on Key Biscayne, did you know about this incident? We are all affected by this issue and we are all stakeholders in the place we live, work and recreate. Use your voice and call on our local decision-makers to properly address these issues, include the public and remedy this situation with long-term, viable strategies. No more band-aids for this decades-old problem.
In a recent blog post about the sewage case Miami new times states, in the title of the blog post, that Judi Kolsen is “accusing Miami-Dade County of infecting her with poop water.” Although Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper is glad that Miami New Times is posting about this crucial issue, we cannot accept the language and depiction of this case.
In the Miami new times post (click here to read full post) the sewage case is depicted as a personal issue, in which Kolsen is upset that Miami-Dade allowed contaminated water to touch her leg. This is not what the case is about. Judi Kolsen and Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper are involved in this enforcement action out of a concern for the health of Biscayne Bay and everyone that relies on and enjoys the Bay, not the condition of one individual. Kolsen’s personal experience with contaminated water should serve as an indicator of a larger problem that faces Miami-Dade County and Biscayne Bay, and should not be the focus of this case.
This case is not about accusations, it is about citizens calling attention to the fact that Miami-Dade County has broken the law through numerous Clean Water Act violations. The individuals involved in the case should not be the point of focus; the tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage being released into Biscayne Bay by the County’s sewage system, and what can be done about that fact, should the point of focus.
January 24, 2013 - Yesterday Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper (BBWK) along with Judi Kolsen, a Key Biscayne resident, filed a motion to intervene in the EPA’s enforcement action against Miami-Dade County for Clean Water Action violations. As part of their legal action, the EPA and the County will be negotiating a settlement agreement known as a consent decree; the first consent decree between these parties occurred in 1994. After tracking sewage spills through the Swim Guide mobile app and collecting data, it became apparent that there was a lack of appropriate enforcement and attention to this critical issue by the County, State and Federal agencies involved. After learning of the new consent decree being negotiated Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper reviewed the draft of the new decree and found issues surrounding sea level rise and a plan to phase out the ocean outfall pipe absent from the decree. In response, BBWK has gathered a team of engineer, economic and scientific experts to develop insight for a more sustainable and economically feasible plan for the infrastructure of Dade County.
Over the past several years, tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage have been discharged into Biscayne Bay due to the County’s failure to operate, maintain, and improve the sewage system. The decrepit state of the Central District Wastewater Treatment Plant on Virginia Key is of particular interest to this case, as well as the recent disclosure by the County that the 54 inch force-main pipe which carries millions of gallons of sewage a day under Biscayne Bay, from Miami Beach to Virginia Key, is in imminent danger of catastrophic failure. Our question is: How could the Miami-Dade sewage system reach such a dangerous point of disrepair?
With the health and safety of Biscayne Bay at stake, BBWK believes this issue is too important to allow for the status quo in Miami-Dade sewage system management to continue. We have chosen to intervene in this new enforcement action against the County not only to ensure any new consent decree is fair, reasonable, and in the public interest but also to ensure the new consent decree brings about compliance with the Clean Water Act through adequate enforcement.