Miami-Dade’s septic tanks have to go, scientist says

MIAMI – Scientists know that there is evidence that polluted groundwater flows from septic coastal systems to the sea. Environmentalists fear that the local government’s refusal to invest in a much-needed conversion of septic tanks to sewers could cost more if Miami-Dade County’s coastal water quality continues to fail.

Septic tanks process wastewater from toilets, sinks and showers. The Environmental Protection Agency’s list of benefits of septic tanks includes “replenishing” groundwater. It is precisely for this reason that Jim Fourqurean and other experts believe septic tanks shouldn’t be in coastal areas like Palmetto Bay.

Fourqurean, director of the Center for Coastal Ocean Research at Florida International University, is one of the experts blaming septic tanks for the nitrogen-enriched groundwater that causes algal blooms and oxygen starvation problems.


“The seaweed that is really close to the coast is affected by this groundwater,” said Fourqurean.

Scientists in South Florida say there have been many warnings about the water quality crisis. The most recent alarming episode: The unprecedented fish death from August 10th in the northern area of ​​Biscayne Bay. Videos of dead fish and marine life fighting went viral in Miami-Dade County.

“We should stop polluting the groundwater because in Florida the groundwater that our septic tanks drain into is right in the bay,” said Fourqurean. “We have to stop.”

Last week’s algal bloom raised concerns that the fish’s kill was not over yet, but the winds and currents pushed it out of the bay. Dozens of protesters marched in protest in North Bay Village on Saturday. The crowd consisted of waterfront residents, swimmers, paddle boarders, and others who regularly enjoy the bay’s beauty and have seen a decline.


On Monday, the Biscayne Bay Task Force submitted a report to the Miami-Dade County Commission with more than 60 recommendations – including the need to move 100,000 homes from septic tanks to sewers. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez denied the need, saying it was an expensive proposition: $ 7,500 per house.

Experts have already warned Miami-Dade County about the weak points in the septic tank system. A 66-page report from November 2018 dealt solely with susceptibility to sea level rise.

For more information on the ongoing Biscayne Bay crisis, check out Local 10 News’ Saving Biscayne Bay special on Wednesday at 8:00 pm. Then visit Florida International University’s virtual city hall on or Local 10 News on Facebook.


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