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Aminda Marqus Gonzalez

Executive Editor and Vice President

May 31, 2016


City Attorney Raul J. Aguila
1700 Convention Center Drive
Miami Beach, Fl., 33139
Dear Mr. Aguila:
I received your May 25 letter on behalf of Miami Beach regarding the Miami Herald story on a study of pollutants flowing
from the city's new drainage system.
First, to be clear, there will be no retraction of the story. As you know, the Miami Herald published a letter to the editor
from City Manager Jimmy Morales in regard to this story on May 18.
Your request for a retraction fails to point to a single factual error in the May 16 article and in fact your letter itself
includes errors. For a city that rightly prides itself on a pioneering response to sea level rise efforts that have received
extensive coverage from the Miami Herald the letter also displays a surprising lack of understanding of the basic
science process and water quality issues.
First, the Herald story contains repeated explanations of the salient point of the study: This is not just a Miami Beach issue
but one for all of Florida if current King Tide-like conditions increase in frequency as a result of sea rise. In the third
paragraph, the story states runoff issues are not confined to Miami Beach, noting that "detecting human waste in urban
floodwater is hardly unusual ..." and later adds "the problem is not just for Miami Beach. Up and down the coast, as seas
rise, more urban water is expected to be flushed into coastal waters, putting at risk one of the state's biggest tourist draws."
Second, the city's letter correctly points out that fecal coliform can come from either animals or humans and correctly
argues that genetic testing would need to be done to tell the difference. But it fails to note that the scientists did, in fact, do
genetic testing to support the findings.
Third, the letter asks whether writer Jenny Staletovich knew Dr. Briceno tested only on a single day in 2014 and 2015 and
took samples directly from the outfall pipe? Yes, the story states that clearly.
Your letter continues with an incorrect assertion that Briceno and his team did not test any other locations. As the story
notes: "For now, tidal flushing has kept the dirty water from building up in the bay. Samples taken further from shore, the
team found, were largely diluted, creating a kind of halo of pollution."
Tidal flushing every day actually cleans up the water," Briceno said. "That helps a lot so we don't have a major problem.
But those waters that are flushed out go to the coral reefs."
Fourth, the city's own expert acknowledged she could not refute the findings and is quoted in the story raising the concerns
enumerated in your letter about the study's limitations. She also explains the steps the city is taking to address polluted
runoff. Further, the story quotes Briceno praising Miami Beach as a leader on an issue all coastal cities face. "I recognize
that they are doing a heck of a job compared to other cities, but we need to address this problem."

3511 NW 91 Avenue, Miami, FL 33172 I 305-376-3429 I fax 305-376-8910 I amarques@miamiherald.com I www.miamiherald.com

Fifth, your letter confuses regulatory standards with basic research. The letter cites an NPDES permit and monthly county
sampling as if they are the scientific gold standards of water quality management. They are not. They are simply legal
constructs that allow industries, cities and other polluters to dispose of waste water and contaminants typically at some
monthly or annual mean level intended to balance economic costs against ecological ones. State water quality standards
have been repeatedly challenged in court or questioned by scientists because the old adage that "dilution is the solution to
pollution" has not always proven true. The city is surely aware, for instance, that the state of Florida has ordered the
shutdown of ocean outfall sewage pipes because of mounting evidence of reef damage from long-term nutrient loading.
The repeated dismissal of Briceno's work as "foundation-less" shows misunderstanding of the research process. This is
actually the definition of foundation work, the establishment of baseline information that can help scientists, regulators
and civic and political leaders to understand what is coming out of the pipe before it is diluted. That is a fundamental first
step to both understanding long-term impacts and setting effective water quality standards.
Lastly, the letter suggests that Dr. Briceno and by extension Florida International University, the University of Miami
and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers who worked with him to compile and analyze the data
are somehow exaggerating research to extract a contract from the city. If that is the citys contention, we expect to see
proof. Well be submitting a request for these records.
Again, the city has done commendable work to tackle the challenges of climate change. As pioneers of a major
engineering endeavor, you must expect to encounter technical challenges and we of course welcome any discussions on
how you will tackle this one and others that will inevitably arise.

Sincerely,

Aminda Marqus Gonzalez

3511 NW 91 Avenue, Miami, FL 33172 I 305-376-3429 I fax 305-376-8910 I amarques@miamiherald.com I www.miamiherald.com