Biologists perform a necropsy on a whale shark that died in Florida waters. MUST CREDIT: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Red tide’s stinky situation: What to do with all the fish carcasses that wash ashore?
The decision in South Florida, which began experiencing the effects of red tide two weeks ago, has been to put them in landfills where they can rest in [smelly] pieces.
The solution seemed fine, since landfills aren’t known for their pleasant aromas, but there were still concerns the fish stench might be a bit too much even at a dump.
Broward Commissioner Mark Bogen didn’t want any residents complaining about a fishy smell coming from the landfill commonly known as Mount Trashmore in Coconut Creek in his district.
Officials say they got Waste Management to agree that any more fish brought to the landfill near Florida’s Turnpike will be taken to another one in Okeechobee as their final resting place.
Clean-up crews are double-bagging the fish, too, in Broward County, to prevent leakage and curb any smells.
And the carcasses in Palm Beach County have to be brought directly to the landfill and not dropped off at a transfer station, said Willie Puz, spokesman for the county’s Solid Waste Authority that operates a landfill near West Palm Beach.
Landfill crews in Palm Beach and Broward counties waste no time burying the carcasses as soon as they arrive, rather than waiting until the end of the day as is done with most other garbage.
“With this waste, we’ll dig a separate hole and cover it immediately,” said Waste Management spokeswoman Dawn McCormick.
But maybe there’s too much of a stink being raised about the potential foul smell.
Lois Rose is the solid waste operations manager for Sarasota County, which has taken in several hundred tons of dead fish due to red tide over the past two months. She said even that large amount isn’t significant enough to create an unbearable stench.
“It smells like dead fish,” Rose said, but is only a small part of the 1,100 tons of garbage that arrive at the landfill daily.
“Yes, the girls and the staff at the scales will say ‘Yes, we have dead fish coming in,’” but it doesn’t make the overall site smell, Rose said. “It’s just like any other day, like when we get a load of dead fish coming in from the fish market or the pier.”
The amount of dead fish that have shown up on Florida’s east coast is minuscule in comparison.
The Palm Beach County landfill estimates it has received one ton of fish related to red tide, Puz said.
Dead fish are seen washed ashore at the Ocean Inlet Park in Ocean Ridge, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Officials have confirmed that red tide has appeared on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. (Joe Cavaretta / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Waste Management originally told Broward County it could handle up to 40 tons a day of fish at its Coconut Creek landfill, but the actual amount taken there has been far less: two loads totaling 500 pounds from Fort Lauderdale were buried there, McCormick said, prior to the new arrangement to send out the carcasses to Okeechobee.
McCormick had no reports of any additional loads being brought to Monarch Hill.
Where the fish go depend on where the cities have disposal contracts.
In Hollywood, for instance, where up to 1,700 fish washed up recently, the city uses Waste Connections. City officials said the company will be transporting the carcasses to a landfill in Central Florida.