This past Sunday, thousands of runners lined up early in the morning at American Airlines Arena for the Miami Marathon. They ran across the MacArthur Causeway, did a loop around South Beach, ran back across the causeway, and powered south to Coconut Grove before looping back north to finish at Bayfront Park. Despite the chilly weather, organizers called the event a tremendous success; it also required, of course, a tremendous amount of resources.
After the race, Scott Aaronson was walking with some colleagues in South Beach, around Fifth Street and Alton Road, when he noticed something bothersome: a work crew appeared to be lifting huge amounts of leftover water into a garbage truck.
The water came from gallon jugs, packed inside stacks of unopened cardboard boxes on pallets. There were maybe four pallets by the side of the street, Aaronson says, and
Aaronson asked one of the workers, a member of a City of Miami Beach sanitation crew, what was going on with all the water. "They told us that they were disposing of it," Aaronson says.
"I asked him, 'Hey, why don't you take some?'" Aaronson says. The worker told him that employees are forbidden from taking any but that Aaronson was free to grab some.
The whole thing seemed like a huge waste.
Aaronson, a broker for a Detroit-based realty firm visiting for business, also thought about the tragedy still unfolding closer to home: the Flint, Michigan lead-poisoned water crisis.
"We're an hour away from Flint, which kind of really shows us what happens when people don't have drinking water," he says. "I don't know if it would make sense to send it to Flint, but I know for sure that there's a lot of uses for bottled water ... that are much better uses than throwing them out."
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A spokesperson for the Miami Marathon, Natalie Bushaw, says that the marathon is in fact committed to reducing waste and that it wasn't immediately clear exactly why the water was thrown out instead of saved. Both the City of Miami and the City of Miami Beach have a policy of donating whatever unused water they can, she says, typically in the range of 1,000 gallons or so per year.The marathon also has "a longstanding partnership with Feeding South Florida for the pickup of remaining water and food post-race at the finish line.
"As is common practice, the city works to reopen the streets as quickly as possible," she adds, "and we’re currently evaluating how much water was donated this year."
Marathon organizers will also evaluate how much water they should order for next year's race, she says. "We don't want to be overabundant."