Edgewater Condo Site Accused of Polluting Biscayne Bay

Murky water from a stormwater outfall near the construction site for Modera Biscayne Bay (left) and new turbidity barriers to prevent pollution (right)EXPAND
Murky water from a stormwater outfall near the construction site for Modera Biscayne Bay (left) and new turbidity barriers to prevent pollution (right)
photos courtesy of Andres Althabe
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In May, Texas-based apartment developer Mill Creek Residential broke ground on a luxury tower in the Miami neighborhood of Edgewater. The 27-story Modera Biscayne Bay boasts a rooftop pool, digital package lockers, a Pilates studio, and "spectacular views of Biscayne Bay." But during construction, the builders have been cited for polluting the very body of water the owners tout in promotional materials.

An inspection report says Miami-Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) issued a citation to the property June 26. The report states sediment from the construction site was flowing toward a storm drain that dumps into Biscayne Bay.

The citation "was to advise in writing that it is a violation to allow any waste including sediment into a storm drain and impacted drains must be pumped out," the county's inspector noted.

The pollution was first reported to DERM by Andres Althabe, president of the Biscayne Neighborhoods Association, which represents condo residents and businesses in Edgewater and Midtown. Althabe told county officials construction debris and dirt from the site at 412 NE 22nd St. appeared to be muddying the water, and forwarded some photos. During a weekend with heavy rainfall last month, the sediment washed right into the bay, he says.

"Everyone knew that heavy rain was coming, and they didn't do anything [to prepare the site]," Althabe tells New Times. "That's pretty bad."

County records show DERM first responded to the site June 21. During that inspection, no violations were uncovered. But the next week, DERM returned for a followup.

The June 26 report says the county's inspector was concerned that an existing storm drain was located on the construction site. Although the builders had placed a boom across the drain, "there was evidence [of] sediment flow towards it." The property owner was cited accordingly.

Peter Jakal, a spokesman for Mill Creek, denies the sediment in Althabe's photos came from the Modera construction site. But after meeting with the city's Public Works Department, the builders have taken precautions to prevent any future incidents.

"As we have only done minimal work on the site and the storm drain that is releasing the sediment is an existing shared drain, we and the city do not believe it is a result of work completed on our site," Jakal said in a statement. "However, out of an abundance of caution and with the city's agreement, we will be taking additional measures, including installing a turbidity barrier at the outfall and cleaning the storm sewer drain, to ensure that any event like this will not be a result of our site in the future."

Turbidity barriers were set up at the site shortly after DERM's visit. For Althabe, it's a good start but not a full solution. As Miami's rainy season kicks into high gear, he says he and other residents will be monitoring the site.

"This shouldn't happen again," Althabe says. "We'll see if it's going to be enough, but I don't think it will be enough."

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