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Miami-Dade Agrees to $1.6 Billion Fix to Its Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure

June 5, 2013 - 6:00pm

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that Miami-Dade County has agreed to invest $1.6 billion in major upgrades to its wastewater treatment plants and wastewater collection and transmission systems in order to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows.

The agreement came under a settlement with the federal Department of Justice and the federal EPA. The state of Florida and the Florida Department of Environmental Protectionare co-plaintiffs with the federal government in this action.

Miami-Dade estimates it will spend approximately $1.6 billion to complete the upgrades required by the consent decree and come into compliance with the Clean Water Act. Under the settlement, Miami-Dade will also pay a civil penalty of $978,100 ($511,800 to be paid to the United States and $466,300 to FDEP) and complete a supplemental environmental project costing $2,047,200.

Last July the county admitted corrosion is so pervasive in Miami-Dades water and sewage-treatment plants, and pipes that move water and sewage, that initial repairs could take from three to eight years, a five-month study found.

Each day 300 million gallons of waste and 459 million gallons of drinking water pass through the countys system -- the 10th largest water-and-sewer utility in the nation.

John Renfrow, director of the water and sewer department, said in July, The infrastructure we have out there is aged. Many of the pipes with leaks out there were built at the same time. It reminds me of an apartment where all the lights are put in at the same time, and you know how all the lights go out at the same time.

Under the terms of the consent decree, Miami-Dade will complete the rehabilitation within 15 years. The county will also develop and put into practice programs for management operation and maintenance. By implementing these measures, Miami-Dade should achieve compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, according to the EPA.

Sewage overflows are a significant problem in the Southeast because of inadequate and aging infrastructure, said Stan Meiburg, acting regional administrator of EPAs Southeastern office. This agreement demonstrates the countys commitment to address its sewage problems. Eliminating overflows of raw sewage will comply with the Clean Water Act and benefit the Miami-Dade community by providing a cleaner and healthier environment.

Miami-Dade County is one of the worlds premier resort destinations and is home to Americas Everglades, two aquatic preserves as well as Bill Baggs Cape Florida, Oleta River and The Barnacle Historic state parks, said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. This agreement will bring lasting environmental and recreational benefits to the citizens and visitors of Miami-Dade County by reducing the threats posed by untreated sewage overflows that degrade water quality and contribute to beach closures,

Between January 2007 and May 2013, Miami-Dade reported 211 sanitary sewer overflows totaling more than 51 million gallons. Such overflows included a number of large-volume overflows from ruptured force mains. At least 84 overflows, totaling over 29 million gallons of raw sewage, reached navigable waters of the United States. Miami-Dades Central District wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) also experienced several violations of the effluent limits contained in its NPDES permit.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

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