Dirty Doings: Biscayne Bay has a plan to trap trash that is polluting South Florida’s waterways

Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Rich Carey

Miami’s waterways are in critical danger due to exorbitant amounts of garbage and waste that have migrated from South Florida’s streets to its precious and protected waters.

Recently, Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood was recognized as a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Prevention. But sadly, the waste that is being uncovered in the surrounding area poses a major threat to the community and the ecosystem.

“There’s trash all over the streets here,” Christine Rupp, director of the Dade Heritage Trust, said. “Little Havana has just become a dumping ground for people. There’s very little enforcement here by the city.”

Rupp is working with Healthy Little Havana, a local nonprofit, to help clean up the waste on the streets that is adversely affecting the community and its waterways. 

The city’s Biscayne Bay is home to precious seagrass and creatures such as manatees, both crucially affected by the pollution that is seeping from Miami-Dade County’s streets. If the problem is not urgently addressed within the coming months, the bay could reach a point of no return.

The problem ultimately boils down to the way trash is disposed of by residents. Littering has become rampant in South Florida, and the excess runoff from trash cans combined with the carelessness of residents and travelers has only exacerbated the situation.

“Some have grates to prevent that debris from going in; most do not,” Rupp said of the city’s storm drain system. “They don’t understand that this goes right into the bay.”

The runoff into the bay is so bad; it forced the City of Miami to contract a company to trap the waste before it hits the bay with a netting contraption. So far, the contractors have measured the outfall for the netting that is expected to get installed in August.

“It seems like such an obvious solution,” Morningside resident Kathryn Mikesell told WPLG 10. “If we can capture this trash in a net before it gets to the bay, it solves the problem.”

But the problem doesn’t only lie in the hands of the drains.

Many believe that the city is too loose on littering fines and have long contested the punishment associated with the crime be increased and enforced more often. However, it’s a tough thing to crack down on.

“Getting residents to care, I think, has to start with educating them about what happens when this trash leaves their street,” Rupp added. “It’s not good for them, it’s not good for the neighborhood, and it certainly isn’t good for Biscayne Bay.”

City of Miami has 28,000 storm drains and those drains connect to Biscayne Bay within minutes. The restructuring starts with the drains and informing the public that littering could lead to irreversible problems.

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