Saturday, May 18, 2013

Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper Testimony on Waste Water Issue Before the County Commission Yesterday

Honorable members of the Board of County Commissioners –

You have before you a bond authorization request that includes a capital plan for sewer and water. The EPA and BBWK have sued the county on the sewer side for massive violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

The sewer Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is about $1.5 billion. About half of that is for fixing pipes and pump stations and the under-bay force main from miami beach to Virginia Key. the bbwk has no problem with that and, we encourage even faster fix to these problems, which, by the way, constitute the source of most of the raw sewage overflows in the system (most of the CWA violations)

The other half of the $1.5 billion is to fix the 3 wastewater treatment plants (WWTP). 37% of the $1.5 billion alone or $555 million is for a major rebuild to the WWTP on Virginia Key. BBWK and its experts have studied the 3 WWTPS and the issues of sea level rise and storm surges.

According to our internationally-renowned experts from UM, FAU and FIU, the county’s 3 WWTP are at serious risk of damage and losing operational reliability (violating the cwa) due to the failure of the cip to protect the plants from rising sea levels and storm surge expected – and acknowledged -- in the 4-county compact that you have approved.

Now, after reviewing BBWK's expert reports, Miami Dade Water and Sewer (WASD) says that it will address sea level and storm surge, but not in the consent decree. But, these protective measures are not in the CIP and bond authorization that are before you. So, where is the money going to come from? and, how much? and when?

The WASD's hastily commissioned hazen and sawyer study showed that WASD would need an additional $80m to protect the 3 WWTPs from flooding and storm surge (sea walls and building hardening). First, that $80m is not in the CIP before you. Secondly, our experts who are peer reviewing the Hazen and Sawyer study (done for WASD in 3 weeks at the cost of $17,500), have indicated that study is very flawed and that the protections needed to the 3 WWTPs will be much more costly.

In order to make reasoned decisions, the BOCC must use “apples to apples” comparisons for multi-billion dollar capital improvements.

Apparently, the WASD has now, in response to the BBWK lawsuit, greenlighted the new western WWTP, which, at ~143 million gallons per day of capacity, will likely cost over $2b. Where is that money in the bond authorization? It is not in the sewer CIP that is before you.

If the appropriate, sound science and engineering vulnerability studies are done, it may turn out that the costs of adequately protecting the Virginia Key WWTP from sea level rise and storm surge are so great, that it makes more sense to de-commission that plant and build a bigger and safer WWTP at the western site. Plus, the state requires the county to eliminate ocean outfalls by 2025, thereby significantly lessening the locational value of virginia key for the site of a major WWTP.

BBWK doesn’t know the answer to this question, yet. The BOCC doesn’t know the answer to this, and, neither does wasd, because wasd has refused to do the sound science and engineering vulnerability assessment and alternatives analysis of the 3 wwtps that BBWK and its experts have been strongly recommending for six months.

If the EPA and the WASD sign a zero sea level rise consent decree and you, the BOCC, approve it, the losers are going to be the residents and businesses and visitors of Miami Dade County.

You will be taking the county down the road of a self-fulfilling prophecy – to a future where what mayor gimenez and director renfrow predict comes true – “coastal property abandonment.”

If you have not heard their public statements about the future of “coastal property abandonment”in Miami Dade County, please ask them to provide them to you. there are many such statements that they have made to the press, at public meetings, and even in a recent letter to Mayor Frank Caplan of the Virginia Key, etc.

BWWK is not only advocating, here, to stop the pollution of Biscayne Bay that the county’s crumbling sewer systems are causing, it is advocating for the BOCC to begin implementing a climate ready critical infrastructure for Miami Dade County – starting with the sewers – that will extend the habitability of the county long into the future – in this era of rapidly rising sea levels and increasing storm impacts, as Hurricane Sandy so savagely demonstrated.


Anonymous said...

There will be more fun and games at the BCC meeting on 5/21 being held in South Dade at the Performing Arts Center just off the Turnpike at SW 211th St. Please attend. The BCC has totality lost it's mind on so many issues. After watching this meeting on Thursday, listening to them hear themselves speak they seem to take absolutely no blame for allowing this build it they will come destroying our fragile eco system along the way. It's just too bad so many won't be termed out for too many years. It's going to be at least another four years of horrendous decisions at the hands of the BCC who has totally lost touch with the reality and spending billions of our taxpayer dollars granting insiders great deals for campaign cash.

Speak up. Attend this meeting They need to fix their mess. The bills should go to the developers & staff too who approved projects with inadequate water/sewer. For Gimenez to claim clean hands is absurd as he's known about this issue repeatedly put on the back burner for years. Shame on all the commissioners for not taking responsibility but still vote to approved applications like Cemex at the edge of the Everglades or approved more residential development anywhere near the UDB right now. The game's up and has been for a long time.

PS: Please, no more CDD's. There are not enough disclaimers in the world that will fully explain to a home buyer they're being screwed and paying for infrastructure the developer should be paying for. Construction jobs are not the answer to our unemployment. A new BCC with a 21st century model of foresight would be a great start.

Vote them out in 2014!

Anonymous said...

The meeting in S. Dade hosted by the county commission will be a love fest for Lynda Bell.

Anonymous said...

Bell may want to duck and run on 5/21 South Dade. They love her at the BCC in South Dade, they don't. For her to actually face the voters down here is not something appealing to her. She hides from every meeting down here because we know her game and her lies, which are plentiful

Anonymous said...

The Consent Decree resolution on Tuesday at the South Dade BCC meeting is NOT a public hearing.

Correct the POST: Sosa did not allow any public testimony at the Thursday meeting either. The BBWK testimony was prepared for the Thursday show, but was not heard. The Commission continues to hear only one side of the story - from Mayor Gimenez.

During the Thursdasy meeting, when Chairwoman Sosa asked the Mayor if the Capital Plan for the $4.2 Billion bond program had been developed with the "water level" in mind, he quickly responded "YES". There was NO discussion of the Climate Change related Sea Level Rise projections, or Salt Water Intrusion issues.

If this Mayor continues to bury his head in the sand on Climate Change concerns, he may not politically survive even a slight rise in sea levels.

Anonymous said...

If the public is not able to speak its just another dog and pony show for Lynda Bell. Maybe its a one trick pony. Maybe it's just too persuade the voters to support Bell. The BCC Chair needs to STOP this sneakiness. The citizens are a lot smarter than you think. I am trying to figure out what is the point of having this meeting. I think you are afraid of what you will hear. STOP wasting our time.

Anonymous said...

Let's focus on WASD:
- More Directors, Deputy Directors, Assistant Directors,, Assistants to the Directors and Chiefs than any other County department.
- Most of the above are "career County Employees" which means that they may have started 20+ years ago earning base starting salaries but now earn at least $125,000 and several earn $200,000+. Most are scheduled to retire soon, many are in the DROP program, and will retire with 80% of their salary. They are in their 50s and early 60s; we will be paying these pensions for 20 years or more.
- WASD has been the cash cow for years! Why? Easy! They are the only game in town! Everyone must pay their water bill so the millions of dollars are there to be picked at every year.
- All the County Commissioners (except for Souto, Suarez and Zapata are buddies with WASD administrators just as Seijas was. This applies especially to Gimenez.
- Most importantly: These directors et al, DON'T CARE! They've known all these problems exist but are confident that the popes will hold until they're gone... And then, it will be somebody else's problem.

Biscayne Bystander said...

Holy crap this is alarming! Though all of the acronyms flying around make the issue a little difficult to follow. Is this something I should be bringing up at my home owner association meeting? Complaining to the city as an individual has proven to be futile.

Anonymous said...

Biscayne Bystander, bring your HOA to the meetings. Scrutiny is the best disinfectant.

Chris said...


The County is too big and too unwieldy to be responsive to the people's needs.

Homeowners Associations, Neighborhood Association, Kiwanis and other service organizations should ban together in the name of their constituents to pass a joint resolution of their desire for clean water and their willingness to take political measures next year or even earlier (recalls) to get it done.