Miami-Dade replacing septic systems with sewer service

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and the county broke ground Thursday on a project that will take years but is considered "urgent" to protect beloved waterways.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Miami-Dade County broke ground Thursday on a multiyear program they say will provide sanitary sewer service to thousands of residents with septic tank systems.

The county says that approximately 120,000 septic tank systems are still in use in Miami-Dade and that 9,000 are vulnerable to compromise or failure under current groundwater conditions.

“As sea-level rise increases, this number will grow to approximately 13,500 by 2040,” the county said in a news release. “Compromised and failing septic tank systems can cause public health risks, environmental impacts, and negative impacts on private properties.”

The initial lateral sewer lines will be installed to connect 340 homes on already failing septic tanks that are spewing human waste into the groundwater and bay.

It won’t come cheap. On average it will cost $7,500 for residents, a fee they will have to cover, but the county has funding to help them connect.

About 9,000 septic tank systems in Miami-Dade are vulnerable to compromise or failure under current groundwater conditions, the county says.

“Everybody, once we’ve brought in the laterals, is obligated to connect, and we are going house by house to see who is eligible for assistance,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “And we also are making other funds available through low-interest loans and other things that will help people connect.”

The groundbreaking for the Connect 2 Protect project took place Tuesday morning at Northeast 87th Street and Bayshore Drive. The program is estimated to take many years and cost an estimated $4 billion to complete.

The Little River area is the focus of Phase 1 and is one of the dirtiest waterways in all of the county, loaded with deadly nutrients from septic, fertilizer and stormwater runoff, and sewage breaks that triggered the massive fish kill in the summer of 2020.

“This was one of the top recommendations from our Biscayne Bay task force report,” said Irela Bague, the county’s chief bay officer. “We have to start where the hot spots are and where we’re seeing the most nutrient pollution levels.”

“It is absolutely urgent,” added Roy Coley, director of Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer. “Everyone has seen the decline of the health of the bay. Everyone has seen fish kills. ... These property owners who can’t flush a toilet when it’s raining or take a shower, it’s urgent they get their needs met now.”

As if to say thank you, two dolphins frolicked in Biscayne Bay just as the groundbreaking happened Thursday. Perhaps a sign of the bay breathing a sigh of relief.

“They heard the good news,” Levine Cava said. “We saw the dolphins leap with glee that we are doing everything in our power to clean up this bay.”

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.