Miami Beach pollution is creating a silent tide in our Biscayne Bay

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Grant Miller, Publisher

Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring more than 56 years ago. In this landmark work of environmental writing, she described how the use of chemicals by farmers, including DDT, had the consequence of wiping out the population of birds. And because no species exists entirely by itself, the death of birds and a spring devoid of birdsong, meant the coming destruction of our environment.

Miami Beach has brought a silent tide to Biscayne Bay and the consequences for sea life in South Florida are just as dire as those described by Carson in 1962.

Only the most pig-headed, obtuse, or foolishly blind would deny the effects of global warming. Objective measurements show that our global temperatures have been ratcheting consistently upward. Each new year brings an all-new record as the hottest ever on the books. 

It only makes sense. Ice-core measurements show that carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, commonly called “greenhouse gasses,” have steadily increased since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 19th Century. 

Low-lying areas like Miami Beach are on the front line of sea-level rise and climate change. But it’s the way that Miami Beach reacted to it that is causing more problems than it’s fixing.

Former Miami Beach Mayor and current gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine came into office with the goal of saving us all from the flooding that was inundating his island city. Always more concerned with doing “something” than doing “something right,” Levine proposed a program of expensive pumps to move flood waters out into the ocean and Biscayne Bay.

The Miami Beach City Commission bought into his ill-conceived plan. How ill conceived? Well, for one – and get ready, it’s a big one – the city failed to account for the possibility that this network of electric pumps might lose power in the event of storm. Tropical Storm Emily showed just how short-sighted Levine was. Because, when the city lost power, the pumps stopped working. And the water backed up into homes and businesses. 

But even when the pumps are working, they cause problems that our environment may never recover from.

In his rush to protecting primarily the areas where Levine owned property, such as his business office and other parcels, he built the pumping system without first getting clearance from the County’s Department of Environmental Management. He built it so that all surface water, and all the contaminants found on city streets, like automotive oil and human and animal waste, would be flushed out to sea.

So it turns out that Levine has turned our beloved Biscayne Bay into a big toilet. And now all of that pollution is killing off vital sea grasses in Biscayne Bay, the very sea grass beds that serve as nurseries for small marine animals and fish.

This begs the question, what will become of the fishing business here, which is such an important part of our economy? What will become of this abundant local food source and major recreational attraction that draws so many tourists to South Florida?

The answer is, the death of the bay has the potential to kill it all. And Phil didn’t care. He wanted to be seen as a man of action. He knew he needed captivating film clips and sincere sound bites for his statewide election campaign.

The annoying thing is that the Miami Beach Commission, with Levine gone, has not even taken meaningful steps to stop the pumping of dirty surface water into the bay and the Atlantic.

Miami Beach’s new mayor, Dan Gelber, likes to portray himself as an open and transparent crusader. But on the issue of doing something about the rivers of filthy street waters, Gelber has remained strangely silent.

Biscayne Bay isn’t dead – yet. The City of Miami Beach, with its plumes of black water hasn’t killed it yet.

But the day may soon come when spring will find the bay still and silent, the grasses gone, its fragile ecosystem murdered. If not premeditated, then clearly the waters around us will be victims of manslaughter. And if that day comes, we will have to hold both Phil Levine and Dan Gelber accountable, the former for doing without thinking and the latter for thinking without doing.

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13 Comments on "Miami Beach pollution is creating a silent tide in our Biscayne Bay"

  1. All the stuff on the roads will eventually run into the bay anyway and has for years. The pumping system gets it there quicker and protects low lying properties while doing it. Your article is all one sided with an obvious agenda against Philip Levine. What, you didn’t think the readers could see that?

  2. Except that the article is 100% true and correct, Ray.

  3. Chris Pedersen | March 29, 2018 at 11:02 pm | Reply

    Hi Mike

    First – there is no question that the runoff should be bettLets have a der treated. So, good for you for reporting on it.

    But I have a challenge for you. Lets have a debate on global warming. 1 Hours. Me in one corner – whatever expert you want on the other. Publish both points of view equal space, in your newspaper.

    What do you say Mike – think you’re up to embarassing a climate denier? Thirty years of experience says I can defeat whatever expert you find.

  4. Point well taken Grant.

  5. Ray Beslin, are you his attorney?

  6. As long as we’re pumping, it would be nice to pump through filters…or something. Key West is considering raising a couple of miles of road in the key largo area and wants to filter. Will be interesting to see what they do. In most coastal towns, everything washes into the water from the roads and lawns in any case. Yet we can’t seem to persuade waterfront homeowners to do something as simple as stop using fertilizer.

  7. The pump stations were designed with injection Wells to be installed as discharge for the pumps someone in the city came up with the bright idea(Mayor Levine) of removing the injection Wells and dumping the water straight into the bay. I think it’s an easy fix get a water well contractor to install 24″injection Wells and connect them to the discharge side of the pump. Problem solved save the bay.

  8. This is half hyperbole and half balogna from somebody who hates Levine. Flooding is an exceptional circumstance and even if you didn’t have those pumps, runoff would be and is already going into the bay. What are the options for treating the water or how can it be better handled? How would I know, because you didn’t touch on any of that. No research, no data, just yelling about something you’re mad about, without any actual details. Maybe if you tried harder you could convince us that there’s a better way it should be handled.

    I’m not a climate change denier like that goober in comments. I just think you’ve grabbed on to one thing and you’re trying to shake it as hard as possible to get some attention for yourself. Well, congratulations, you got me to click on this when the ad showed up in my Facebook feed. But it’s so poorly written and one-sided that I won’t be back to this site ever again. Bye.

  9. James "Chip" Black | April 2, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Reply

    Inhabitants of our planet have looked at the oceans as a convenient dumping ground for their waste thinking that the oceans will survive and rejuvenate no matter how much is poured into them. Now, we know better as more and more serious damage occurs giving rise to more and more serious consequences.
    The elimination of the dumping of waste in the oceans should be something we can all agree upon regardless of disagreements regarding the causes of global warming.

  10. No one can ever stop the end of the world and / or humanity. Nothing last forever. The earth has been around over 4 billion years. Can anyone be certain of ANYTHING??

    The climate will forever fluctuate NO MATTER WHAT. Evolution is life DNA

  11. Where did Miami Beaches’ storm water go before the new pumping system was built? Is the net effect to pump it into the bay faster, but hasn’t this always been the destination for the storm water? Cheers.

  12. Jerry Johnson | April 2, 2018 at 11:13 pm | Reply

    Well I’m proud to be one of the “pig-headed, obtuse, and foolishly blind” global warming deniers. The universe has been around for only God knows how many billions of years. The Earth may have had civilizations that disappeared millions of years ago. The truth is, nobody knows. One would think a couple of hundred years ago when there were billions of buffalo running around on the plains that their flatulence producing methane gas would have destroyed the atmosphere. The concept of pumping flood water back out to where it originated is by itself insane as it will immediately return until the next tide change. The real concern should be the pole polarity change that reverses the North and South Poles and happens every million years or so. Scientists say (if we are to believe these same folks that promote climate change) that the Earth is overdue for the polarity switch. Wonder what the brilliant Grant Miller will say about that? Wonder if he could get the brainy Philip Levine to help us out?

  13. Just because there has always been bear-scat in the woods, doesn’t mean WE as (theoretically) the intelligent species, should be flushing it all into the ocean — With all our genius and all our money, it never ceases to amaze me that we can’t figure out a BETTER WAY to deal with our problems. Maybe we should collect it all, make it into briquets and use it for cooking, hmmm? Or maybe one of those “SH….LE” countries is already doing that?

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