To prevent a state-mandated building ban, Miami-Dade County officials may be forced to invest $1 billion in sewage plant upgrades to produce recycled water.
At least $500 million must be spent to bring an existing sewage plant into compliance with state and federal mandates, county officials said.
"Bottom line: If we don't move [on upgrades for the sewage plant] ... it's a [building] moratorium," Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department Director John Renfrow told a County Commission infrastructure committee on Nov. 3.
The first stage of upgrades would be the construction of a high-level disinfection facility to treat human waste. The county disposes of sewage routed through the county's south district plant in Goulds by injecting it thousands of feet underground. Miami-Dade's other method of disposal is pumping waste into the ocean.
In July 2003, Florida environmental regulators told the county that it wasn't properly cleaning the discharged effluent. Under a binding state order, the county must design, permit and operate a new facility at its South District Wastewater Treatment Plant in Goulds.
Then, in December, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule that all utilities using deep injection wells must follow higher levels of disinfection, reinforcing the state's requirements imposed on the county.
These actions against the county's sewage treatment plant exist in addition to mounting concerns about the region's fresh water supply. State environmental and regional water management officials have told governments in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that they can no longer depend on natural underground water sources to accommodate future growth.
To solve that crisis, the county may invest another $500 million into the Goulds plant - upgrades that would provide an even deeper level of treatment, enough to allow for reuse, instead of just disposal.
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