Miami-Dade moves forward with ‘Connect 2 Protect’ projects to reduce sewage pollution

Effort to stop human waste from seeping into waterways in Miami-Dade continues with a groundbreaking ceremony

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she is “The Water Warrior” as Miami-Dade County’s program to reduce sewage pollution continued to move forward on Thursday.

Levine Cava has been trying to change the way the liquid waste from the toilets in most houses in Miami-Dade County flows to pollute both surface and underground water.

“We have to do the water mains and then the laterals down the streets, and then we have to help families to connect from the laterals to their homes,” Levine Cava said.

The main challenge: The county estimates that 9,000 of the county’s 120,000 septic tanks are “vulnerable to compromise or failure under current groundwater conditions,” and this will increase to about 13,500 by 2040 if nothing is done. The cost for each change ranges from $10,000 to $20,000.

Levine Cava and her team first launched Connect 2 Protect, the county’s septic-to-sewer conversion program, early last year, and the first phase, funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, was in Miami’s Little River area along Northeast 87 Street and Bayshore Drive.

Roy Coley, the director of the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, said some of the septic tank systems in the area fail during heavy rain and high tide events and the failures have resulted in sewage backing up into homes and the ponding of floodwater on lawns and roadways.

“Our Biscayne Bay Task Force has identified those very nutrients are what is causing the decline of the health of our bay,” Coley said about the pollution.

The department is investing $126 million in General Obligation Bonds to convert septic systems, and the investment adds up to $200 million when coupled with planned water infrastructure upgrades, according to the county’s report on commercial corridors.

The plan includes 35 projects, and at least five projects have been completed, according to the county’s program status report. The others are in various stages of design and procurement.

The county’s plan includes a project in Ojus from Northeast 186 to 188 streets and from the Oleta River to Northeast 179 Street that will be funded by a 30-year property tax payment to convert 107 properties, according to the county.

On Thursday, Levine Cava, Coley, and Oliver Gilbert III, the county commission’s chair who represents District 1, participated in a groundbreaking ceremony to transition more homes.

They were part of a group who wore helmets and posed for pictures while holding shovels with bows in front of sandboxes that were set up for a ceremony that included speeches.

“We are going to do it one at a time and we aren’t going to stop,” Gilbert III said.

For more information about the Connect 2 Protect program, email

About the Authors:

Alex Finnie joined the Local 10 News team in May 2018. South Florida is home! She was raised in Miami and attended the Cushman School and New World School of the Arts for high school.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.