Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Best letter of 2013: now that the sewage bill is due, will Miami Dade County ever be held accountable for the billions it squandered? ... by gimleteye

The Great Destroyers cast an uncharitable eye to Nathaniel Reed, a hero to those who pay attention to Florida and the constant shifting of growth's unabsorbed costs to future taxpayers, making a mockery of sound fiscal sense. (Reed is a Republican who laments the abandonment of conservative principles by the GOP.)

The only scum thicker than pollution ringing Florida's waters is the BS from one generation of Great Destroyers to another, claiming that rules and regulations protecting our air and water are adequate and that enforcement is being accomplished.

Today, there are two gi-normous pieces of infrastructure -- billions of taxpayer dollars -- that are resting on the shoulders of the county commission and Mayor Carlos Gimenez: the wastewater treatment fiasco boiling in federal court thanks to the persistence of environmental plaintiffs and the plan by FPL to box taxpayers into funding massive new infrastructure to deliver 120 million gallons per day of treated sewage to be used to "cool" two new nuclear reactors.

The Miami Herald finally made a link between sea level rise and the billion dollar collision of infrastructure investments. In December 2012, we wrote, "Mark the date: Monday December 3, 2012. That's the day The Miami Herald opinion page noted science of climate change, including impacts of sea level rise, and planted its flag in favor of allocating taxpayer resources to the real costs to South Florida, as the sea rises. The immediate occasion involves the critical defects of the wastewater system serving 2 million residents, requiring a minimum $1.5 billion and probably a lot more."

In June 2009, we questioned: "Miami Herald editorial recognizes sea level rise and threat to Turkey Point: why so timid on FPL's nuclear ambition?" "We are still acting as though planning future infrastructure and development can continue as it has in the past, with total disregard of the costs of sea level rise. (FPL's attempt to justify a 30 percent rate hike from customers is just the beginning.) The paper must go further and quickly." If the Herald won't follow our timeline, maybe Nathaniel Reed's letter to US EPA will make a bigger impression ...


Mr. Robert Periasepe, Acting Director
US Environmental Protection Agency 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., Room 3312 ARM
Mailstop 1101 A
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Bob,

Bob, I am thrilled that the president made a great decision to appoint you acting Administrator of the EPA! Russ Train would be so very proud that you have reached this mountain top with all of the problems, but most importantly all of the opportunities you have now and hopefully in the future.

As Vice Chairman of the Everglades Foundation, I am well aware ...
of your efforts to assist our state in its all too slow effort to clean up the amazing tonnage of phosphorus and other pollutants that have flowed from the Everglades Agricultural Area into the everglades system. Equally disappointing has been the tepid pace by the state's Department of Environnlental Protection to face the challenge of limiting the flood of phosphorus entering Lake Okeechobee from its watershed.
EPA has been 'shy' for too many years in confronting the state to obey the Clean Water Act. The continuing problem of enforcing the new regulations limiting 'nutrient pollution' will be a challenge that I hope the Atlanta EPA officials take seriously.

Let me change subjects. Before I came to Washington in May, 1971, I held a joint Federal-State Enforcement hearing in Dade County with top officials from the former Water Pollution Control Agency of the Department of Interior. Dade County was in violation of every state and federal law and regulation concerning gross water pollution that existed at that time. Fm1her, the politics of Miami Dade made it seemingly impossible to gain traction in 'encouraging' the county to take the serious health problems seriously.

After months of inspections, many of them completed in the dark of the night, the federal officials forced the admission from Garrett Sloan, the then Dade County Director of Water and Sewage, that the county and city's system were overloaded and there were cracks in the pipeline going to the Virginia Key plant. The plant was discharging a combination of raw and primary treated sewage into the Atlantic that flowed along the Miami Beach hotel beaches. Further the sewage collection system was 'seriously' flawed, antiquated and millions of dollars needed to be spent to upgrade Miami Dade County's sewage collection and treatment to a level where it didn't impose serious health issues.

Sloan blamed 'pelican droppings' for the surge of sewage coming from the broken transmission pipe in Biscayne Bay. Hundreds of concerned citizens roared with laughter when Murray Stein, the Chief of Enforcement of the federal agency replied: "Don't give me that pelican crap argument again!"

It was a sideshow of monumental inadequacies to face the problems squarely and take definitive action. A schedule of compliance was established. The issue seemingly was 'behind me' as I took on the responsibilities at Interior.

Now, years later, I find that there has been very limited progress. There are still pipelines pumping raw or nearly raw sewage into the ocean. The County, in moments of madness, has proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars adding major facilities to the Virginia Key Sewage Treatment Plant.

Bob, it is 'madness' to assist County to upgrade the Virginia Key facility when it is doomed by a rising sea level and directly in the path of a future major hurricane.

The Miami Herald bravely wrote in a major editorial: stop this nonsense and select a site much further west where sewage can be treated to a vely high level and reused perhaps by the farming interests who still rely on everglades water.

Let me 'boldly' remind your staff that the County's 2010 Greenprint Plan, which was headed by Katy Sorenson, one of the most responsible and respected members of the Dade County Commission could have more clearly focused the County's attention on the need to spend taxpayers' dollars wisely on future critical infrastructure. Drinking water and waste disposal are the two most critical parts of any municipal infrastructure. Without them) there can be no Miami-Dade County. Sadly the County)s position is that it won't apply sea level rise and climate impacts to 'existing facilities' only to new ones. Presumably, unless wiser heads prevail at EPA and the County to change the mind set through negotiations or litigation billions of MDC taxpayer dollars will be spent on sewer system rebuild, using no consideration of an increase in sea level rise and no protection from increasing climate impacts, such as storm surge and flooding.

I think our children will ask following a natural disaster) or just years of projected sea rise: "Who and how could such a shortsighted decision be made?

There is no reason to delay another 10-20 years for Miami-Dade County)s politicians to engage the services of 'consultants' to study various options. That is their favorite ploy: delay, at all costs, delay!

There is one option: select a large site that may have to be condemned in the southern agricultural area, face the fact that the sewage collection system is ancient and may need replacement, and set an enforceable time schedule that the 'county fathers' cannot ignore.

Yes, there will be howls of gross interference by the federal government in local sewage problems, but from 1971 to date: 42 years is an example of Miami Dade dysfunctional governments.

Bob, force the issue. The campaign is over. Senators Nelson and Rubio should be of major assistance. Governor Scott should be appalled at the thought of spending billions of taxpayer funds on an antiquated plant that is devoid of' reality'. The members of the Florida legislature who represent Dade County will work against any decision that costs the taxpayers additional water and sewer fees even recognizing the importance of the proposed necessary upgrades to the entire system. This will be a great challenge, but a forceful EPA can make the significant long term MDC investment a wise one, not just an expedient one.

I wish you 'God Speed' in your new assignment. I wish I was 40 years younger and could join you!

With special best wishes,

Nathaniel P. Reed

cc: Senator Bill Nelson Senator Marco Rubio Governor Scott Herschel Vineyard


Geniusofdespair said...

Great letter. Noticed Marco Rubio was on the cc list. He will fight Reed's recommendations vigorously.

Anonymous said...

Marco doesn't believe in climate change science. He prays it doesn't affect his future chances for national office.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever consider that what are very points, that someone really does need to keep making, are getting lost in between your hyperbole. Terms like "Great Destroyers" drown out you argument. They make you sound like the guy fighting Piers Morgan over the 2nd amendment issue.


Anonymous said...

Is it too late to make a citizen's arrest of Water Sewer Director (and ex-DERM Director) John Renfrow for gross negligence?