Scientists find lower bacteria levels in water samples across Miami-Dade

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MIAMI (WSVN) - Experts have found overall lower bacteria levels in water samples across Miami-Dade County compared to before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Elizabeth Kelly stayed at home for a month due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but she returned to the outdoors to collect water samples on Thursday.

Kelly has already tested the water she collected in the Miami River, and the results show the bacteria level was relatively low.

“That was surprising,” she said. “What we’re hoping it means and what it looks like it could point to is I think the water does better when we aren’t constantly stirring it up.”

In the Miami River, harmful bacteria levels are five to 10 percent lower than before the pandemic, which scientists said is a remarkable change for a usually heavily polluted river.

The beaches are in better shape, as well. This week, the Florida Department of Health tested water off 16 Miami-Dade County beaches. Water quality was determined to be “good” at all locations except the Dog Beach at Virginia Key.

“The lesson probably is we need to have more of a break like this when it comes to our beaches and when it comes to our rivers,” Kelly said.

As most of South Florida residents stay home, wildlife creeps closer and closer to urban South Florida. More dolphins have been spotted, and manta rays are have been seen from high-rises.

There are more manatee sightings, as well.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a manatee, and it’s right in front of our apartment,” one resident said on cellphone video.

“I think this is probably a small silver lining in an otherwise really dark time for people, and people were able to slow down and connect with the nature around them,” Miami Waterkeeper Rachel Silverstein said.

Many marinas have reopened this week, so more boats will be back on the pristine looking waterways.

The pandemic has been a living experiment showing the crystal clear connection between the actions of humans and the health of the environment, but it’s an experiment that may be coming to an end.

“We’re probably going to return to what we had before,” Kelly said. “As we’re moving supposedly back to normal, maybe there are some parts of normal we don’t want to continue.”

There’s no data from the health department this week for Broward County beaches, but when samples were tested two weeks ago, the water quality looked good at all sites except for two.

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