County: Sewer system fixes to cost $1B

Water, Sewer Department prioritizes repairs

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

MIAMI - After a three-month assessment of the system, Miami-Dade County's Water and Sewer Department said it will cost $1 billion to prevent aging sewer lines from failing.

Water main breaks can be an indication of an aging water and sewer system, he majority of Miami-Dade's system is more than 50 years old. Deputy Director Douglas Yoder was tasked with finding the most immediately vulnerable assets in the system.

"Pipes that are breaking, plants that are not operating -- there are a billion dollars' worth of upgrades to be made over the next five to 10 years," Yoder said.

About 200 miles of large-diameter concrete pipes need to be repaired or replaced.

"Both for water and for wastewater have failed in spectacular fashion over the past few years," Yoder said.

That includes a line running from South Beach to Fisher Island and then Virginia Key.

"We now know (it) has several pieces in danger of failing," Yoder said.

The situation is so critical that the county is assigning an emergency contract Thursday to begin tackling the replacement of the entire line.

Also in need of attention are some of the county's water and sewer plant, such as a water plant in Hialeah that is so old that it has been designated a historical site.

"It still has a 1926 pump running in it. Other components are not reliable," Yoder said.

The Virginia Key wastewater treatment plant is also on Yoder's "must improve" project list. An area of concern is the component that siphons bigger objects from incoming wastewater flows.

"You get rocks, you get rags, you get all sorts of things," Yoder said.

It was built in the 1950s and was last upgraded in the 1970s.

Yoder said one can think of the water and sewer system like an old car.

"It costs a lot more if you wait until it totally breaks down before you do a repair," he said.

The Department's assessment report will be released next week. It is looking for grants and loans to fund the projects but may also have to consider raising rates. More information about that will be available this summer, when Miami-Dade County leaders discuss the budget.

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