Water pumps converted to oxygenate Biscayne Bay after thousands of dead fish found

MIAMI (WSVN) - Newly installed pumps are trying to breathe life into Biscayne Bay, days after thousands of dead fish were spotted in the water.

7News cameras on Sunday captured one of several pumps that have been placed at three parks in Miami as a means to help give fish some much-needed oxygen.

“We are all hands on deck to figure out how to get oxygen back into the water,” said Miami Commissioner Ken Russell. “We’ve had moments where there’s zero dissolved oxygen, and fish are simply suffocating. Millions of fish are dying.”

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the fish are suffocating because of the hot weather causing low oxygen in the water.

Experts said oxygen levels have also been depleted by pollution and increased algae.

Merle Liivand, an Estonian swimmer who started doing her training in Biscayne Bay after the coronavirus shut down pools, said it’s not just fish.

“We have been seeing not only dead fishes but dead birds. We saw dead manatees a month ago,” said Liivand.

This weekend, fire boats were used to spray water into the bay.

“We called the port director of Miami last night, Juan Curla, and he was able to provide very quickly, at 7 in the morning, fire boats to go to North Bay Village to spray fire hoses to get aeration in,” said Rachel Silverstein with Miami Waterkeeper, an advocacy group for Miami’s waterways.

Miami Waterkeeper also reached out to the city with an idea: repurposing existing equipment.

“We convert our storm water pumps, which normally take out of the streets during a hurricane, and convert them into aerators to put oxygen back in the water,” said Russell.

Silverstein said it’s the largest fish kill ever recorded in Biscayne Bay.

If the fish are left to decay in the water, the bacteria could compound the problem, so they’re asking everyone do what Russell was doing: pull them out of the water and deposit them in bins for compost.

“It’s time to make lasting change here. We know what’s causing these problems,” said Silverstein. “It is stormwater runoff, it is septic tanks, it is sewage, and it is fertilizer use, and all of of those things compounding over a long, long period of time, and it’s time to get really serious about fixing it because we’re losing the bay.”

Volunteers have been to some affected areas to throw away dead fish they find.

City officials said crews are going to be working in the Julia Tuttle basin, which is the area between the Julia Tuttle Causeway and the John F. Kennedy Causeway.

On Monday, scientists from Florida International University plan to collect samples to check the oxygen levels of the bay.

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