Federal Judge Grants $1.6 Billion Consent Decree for Water Quality Improvements in Miami-Dade

May 5, 2014

A Miami federal judge recently granted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Miami-Dade County’s motion to enter into a consent decree, which calls for Miami-Dade County to invest $1.6 billion in major upgrades to its wastewater treatment plants and wastewater collection and transmission systems. This investment will help eliminate sanitary sewer overflows.

Under the terms of the consent decree, Miami-Dade will rehabilitate its wastewater treatment plants and its wastewater collection and transmission system within 15 years. The county will also develop and implement management operation and maintenance programs to help ensure the sewer system is properly operated and maintained in the future. By implementing these measures, Miami-Dade is expected to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows from its wastewater collection and transmission system and achieve compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, issued by the department.

“Miami-Dade County is home to America’s Everglades, two aquatic preserves, as well as three of Florida’s award-winning state parks,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “The improvements to infrastructure in this agreement will bring lasting environmental and recreational benefits to the residents and visitors of the area.”

Between January 2007 and May 2013, Miami-Dade reported 211 sanitary sewer overflows totaling more than 51 million gallons. The 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-Dade’s Central District wastewater treatment plant also had several violations of the effluent limits contained in its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. EPA also documented numerous operation and maintenance violations at this same wastewater treatment plant during inspections in September 2011, April 2012 and April 2013.

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 nearly $1 million, with $466,300 allocated to the department. The county is also subject to stipulated penalties for delays in project completion or future sanitary sewer overflows. Further, Miami-Dade must complete a supplemental environmental project valued at $2,047,200.

Miami-Dade’s supplemental environmental project involves the installation of approximately 7,660 linear feet of gravity sewer mains through the Green Technology Corridor, an area that is currently using septic tanks. Businesses in the area have been unable to connect to the sewer system because of a lack of sewer lines. Disconnecting industrial users from septic tanks will improve water quality in the Biscayne aquifer and nearby surface waters and prevent future contamination.

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