South Miami

South Miami collaborates with FIU in canal study, to appeal judge ruling

In an effort the minimize herbicide application in local canals, the city of South Miami is teaming up with a biology class from Florida International University.

South Miami Mayor and biology Professor Philip Stoddard said that he was looking for science to help limit the applications of aquatic herbicides, used to manage excess weed and plant growth, because those canals flow into Biscayne Bay. The herbicides are EPA approved, but not “safe” as toxicology data has shown that those commonly used cause developmental problems in animals, according to Stoddard.

“We have people who draw water from the canals for use in their yards and the canal water ultimately flows into Biscayne Bay,” Stoddard said. “So if you put toxic chemicals into it, people are sucking it up and spraying it into their yards and flushing down into the bay. Neither of those [options] are good. So the question is: if there is anything we can do other than using herbicide to keep the plant growth under control?”

Dr. Tiffany Troxler is teaching the class that was looking for an environmental ecology outreach project before determining to measure canal pollution and plant growth. The study will give the city the data it needs to determine when weed growth needs to be controlled and identify the sources of nutrients coming into the canal system.

“Dr. Troxler is teaching a biology class … and the students were looking for an outreach project and this is what we came up with,” Stoddard said. “It was something South Miami needed done and it was a good project. It was a good marriage of interest and need. It’s the kind of thing where [Troxler] is actually an expert.”

The South Miami Canal Pilot Study will sample the Twin Lakes Canal and Snapper Creek Canal from about 8 a.m. to noon Sunday. The group will focus on benthic sampling, SAV and sediments.

Miami-Dade County agreed to do mechanical weed sampling in some areas but still needs to use herbicide in other locations, where machinery cannot access. Stoddard said he wants to minimize the treatments for environmental and cost-saving reasons.

“They are taking records of stable isotopes and that helps the scientists figure out where the pollutants are coming from and where the nutrients are coming from,” Stoddard said. “They can distinguish between lawn fertilizer and septic tanks for instance.”

“The next question is what’s the minimum for herbicide application we can manage,” Stoddard said. “How infrequently can we pull it off. For that we needed monitoring data.”

“We need to know what is going on with the plant growth,” Stoddard said. “Since we have people out looking at that, we might as well take some water samples as well. Using stable isotope analysis, the scientists can figure out where the nutrients are coming from. Are they coming from fertilizer run off from the yards? Is it septic tank origins? The isotope signatures are different. One of our other concerns is that the septic tank systems in the county are leaching nutrients into the bay as well as the local waterways. So the data will give us a little information about that.”

Ex-police chief case may be appealed

The city may appeal 11th Circuit Court Judge Jose M. Rodriguez’s March 10 decision. Rodriguez’s decision said that former Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro never served as acting city manager because he was never properly appointed to the position. The former police chief was fired in 2013 after the city found that he violated his contract by serving as acting city manager while serving as police chief.

City Attorney Thomas Pepe said that the judgment isn’t final “at this point.”

“We will be having a meeting on April 7 and we will discuss what the alternatives are, in private, in an attorney client session,” Pepe said. “We will be discussing the case at that time. It’s my opinion that we have more than ample grounds for reversing the judge’s order on appeal. It will ultimately be up to the city commission to see if they want to file that appeal.”

Rodriguez stated on page seven of his 11-page order that “Offices, though, are discordant when “in the established government scheme, one office is subordinate to another, or subject to it’s supervision or control…”

Martinez de Castro was granted his motion for partial summary judgment while the city’s motion for summary judgment was denied. In the order, Rodriguez states that “there is no evidence that the commission ordered Castro’s hiring.” The order also states that the contract between the city and Martinez de Castro was validly executed, even if the “agreement clashed with the City Charter…”

“At this point nothing has happened,” Pepe said. “I haven’t received anything from [Martinez de Castro’s Attorney Paul] Totten’s office with what they are doing.

“My feeling’s that the ruling needs to be tried on the city’s defenses. The judge can decide that the case is over on a final judgment or go to trial on the city’s defenses.”