They live on prime waterfront property, but instead of a beautiful view, they see and smell seaweed. They want the county to clean it up and called on 7’s Kevin Ozebek to investigate.
Living just off of Biscayne Bay, this is the South Florida dream. That is, until you reach this.
Kevin Ozebek: “Describe the smell out here on this canal.”
Bronson Stubbs, boat owner: “It smells like raw sewage basically.”
This short canal is sandwiched between Northeast 90th and 91st Streets in Northeast Miami-Dade, and as you reach the end of it, at times you’ll find a super thick blanket of seaweed. The smell is overwhelming.
Aileen Nieto, homeowner: “Rotten eggs is the way I describe it.”
Kathy Emery, homeowner: “It smells literally like a cat litter box. The whole house is permeated with the smell.”
Al Combs, homeowner: “If I walk inside the house it smells actually worse than it does out here if you can imagine, because there’s no fresh air blowing through the house.”
And in areas where you can actually see the water, it gets even more alarming. This water is pitch black.
Natalie Spiegel, homeowner: “It looks like black tar, oil, algae, doesn’t look good.”
David Peterson, homeowner: “Now it looks like sewage that doesn’t go anywhere.”
Bronson Stubbs docks his boat in this canal. When we met him, there was so much seaweed. His boat was essentially stuck.
Bronson Stubbs: “But the main thing I am worried about is the sea life. You know, there’s manatees in here. There’s snook, there’s tarpon, there’s a ton of fish.”
Or at least there was. Where homeowners once saw manatees, there’s dead fish. They want the county to take action.
David Peterson: “Please use the tax money that we contribute to help clean this place up.”
Al Combs: “They have the wherewithal to clean up this canal.”
These residents have always thought this canal was county property. Their property lines don’t stretch into the water.
Aileen Nieto: “I just want to see the county take a little responsibility for the environment.”
So we reached out to multiple county offices, and the county told us this canal must be “… privately maintained by the abutting property owners.”
Turns out, this canal is Lake Ward. Back in 1925, the developer, The Pines Development Company, dedicated the lake “…to the perpetual use of the lot owners,” not the public.
Kevin Ozebek: “So you’ve lived here since the ’80s?”
Al Combs: “Yeah.”
Kevin Ozebek: “This is new to you?”
Al Combs: “Absolutely.”
Now that raises the question of who owns the canal? The property appraiser’s office tells us “…the last known owner is Pines Development Company,” but records show it dissolved in 1936.
Kathy Emery: “It’s an impossible task for somebody to get out with their pool scoop and start scooping up debris from the bay. I don’t know how we would clean that up.”
Despite century old paperwork, the consensus here is this problem should be cleaned up by the county.
Kathy Emery: “It’s coming from the polluted Biscayne Bay that the county is not maintaining.”
Bronson Stubbs: “If this is actually a private canal, maybe we could build some sort of a seawall, close off the canal and keep everything from blowing in from the bay.”
Luckily, tides have moved much of the seaweed back into the bay, but when it returns, these homeowners now know calling the county will do them no good.
Kevin Ozebek, 7News.
The county tells us it will help them make sure any clean-up work residents do in the canal, is properly permitted.
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