Protecting Reefs One Storm Drain at a Time
Six years ago, Higgs Beach, a 40-acre park on the southern coast of Key West, had the highest closures per year in Florida. It was often closed due to health advisory concerns related to dangerous E. coli contamination – an effect of the 68 outfall pipes, 1,000 storm drains, and dense colony of leaking septic tanks that drained human waste and debris into the ocean reef system.
As of May this year, Higgs has not closed a single day.
This recent good news, just in time for World Oceans Day, is thanks in large part to Key West’s Reef Relief, and the nonprofit organization’s education and public awareness campaigns on coral reef water quality issues. Since 2013, Reef Relief has helped remove over 50,000 lbs of marine debris and educated over 4,500 elementary school students in marine ecology stewardship.
There are outfall pipes between West Palm Beach and Miami that pump out 900,000,000 gallons of sewage discharge per day into the Atlantic – and we want to shut them down.
MILL MCCLEARY, executive program director at Reef Relief
In April, we joined their efforts to protect Florida’s coral reef ecosystem. KEEN partner Sole Man and KEEN employees helped Reef Relief mark 183 Key West storm sewers with “NO DUMPING / DRAINS TO OCEAN” to raise awareness of our daily water quality impacts.
World Oceans Day brought the world together on June 8 to celebrate oceans and raise awareness about keeping them clean and healthy. There’s much more work to be done, and now Reef Relief itself is in danger. Reef Relief’s headquarters in Old Town Key West is being threatened by development. Please stop by Reef Relief at 631 Greene Street or reefrelief.org to see their amazing interactive coral reef exhibits, and find out how you can help support Reef Relief and the Florida reef ecology.