Miami Beach is fighting on the front lines of sea level rise, with Mayor Phillip Levine leading the resort city on a crash public works program to eliminate "sunny day flooding" and stay above water. Levine thinks the academic studies proving that human fecal matter is polluting the bay are all a "big fat lie."
Unfortunately, those efforts have hit a snag - and now the sea level rise fighting Mayor is denouncing one of his City Commissioners for working with Florida International University Scientists and federal researchers that discovered his city Miami Beach is pumping human waste into the coastal waters of Biscayne Bay at an alarming rate.
Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen-Gonzalez doesn't seem like a likely candidate to face off against the multi-millionaire Mayor who invested $2,000,000 into his first race for political office to get elected in 2013, in an election with only 10,000 votes.
Rosen-Gonzalez doesn't have any big bucks. She's not a lawyer or a lobbyist, but rather an Associate Professor at Miami-Dade College and part-time realtor who lives on Miami Beach.
Rosen-Gonzalez was a first time political candidate last year, "In my case, I had 10% of the funds of her opponent, but because Miami Beach is small enough, I literally put on a backpack and I walked the city and met everybody who voted for me," said the dogged professor who earned her title as Commissioner the hard way without a lot of big campaign dollars, "I stood on a bridge, for months, saying you have to vote for me because everyone wanted one person to be on the commission who didn't have to take money from special interests."
The City of Miami Beach's main response thus far is shamelessly demanding a retraction from the Miami Herald of this factual story reporting about the water pollution problem.
Take a quick look at the story so factual, Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine is unable to cite even one thing to retract:
Massive pumps that flush floodwater from Miami Beach into Biscayne Bay during seasonal king tides are dumping something else into the bay: human waste.
A study that looked at tidal floodwater and water discharged from the island’s new pumps during the 2014 and 2015 king tides found live fecal bacteria well above state limits. In one case, levels were more than 600 times the limit. While some of the fecal matter was dog waste, scientists found higher levels of human waste that likely enter floodwaters from leaky old sewer lines or septic tanks.
Miami Herald Writer Fred Grimm also aimed dead at the heart of problems with Miami Beach's water pollution in his opinion column entitled, "The stink Beach mayor smells isn’t a conspiracy, it’s fecal runoff":
The offending story, the so-called hit piece, was based on something called: “Case Study of Miami Beach with Implications for Sea Level Rise and Public Health.” Apparently, the Herald conspired with researchers from Florida International University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern University to conjure up the notion that when Miami Beach’s new water pumps flush away tidal floodwater during king tides, the fecal bacteria count spikes to more than 600 times the acceptable limits. “It’s sloppy journalism; sloppy science,” Levine said
Editor Mindy Aminda Marqués Gonzalez refused, noting that his complaint “fails to point to a single factual error."
It's incomprehensible that Miami Beach's elected officials have become so stubbornly anti-science as the inevitable engineering problems arise with a complex project to keep an island with 90,000 residents and hundreds of hotels and paying tourists, not only dry, but sanitary too.
Mistakes are to be expected, but as Rosen-Gonzalez puts it, "We've become the international model for dealing with sea level rise, so we're writing the rulebook. Everybody wants what's best for the city. But sometimes, we're finding that we've got some issues."
"You always expect things to go wrong," said South Miami's Mayor Phillip Stoddard, who is a scientist and professor at Florida International University who said that, "if there was a manual for how to do it, Miami Beach would've followed that manual, but they're writing the manual. So everything that can go wrong, will go wrong."
"You don't know what's happening under the ground all of the time."
Shamefully, Miami Beach city officials are publicly attacking professional scientists using the same sort of arguments Flint, Michigan's awful government scientists used to foul the water supply of a city with a similar population to the seaside paradise. Flint's water officials pre-flushed taps to run off the worst toxins, and skewed test results which would've revealed the dangerous water conditions.
Miami Beach's performance below mimics Flint's and then some, where they suggest moving test sites away from pumping sites, because testing while the infamous pumps are running will discover the poop in the water.
Luckily, the city will get a second chance to protect their residents from rising seas, and polluted waters by planning ahead before completing their ambitious climate change defenses from now on, instead of after the fact.
Only 20 of Miami Beach's planned 80 pumps have been installed thus far.