Miami-Dade County's $1.5B plan to fix aging pipes

Video shows aging, leaky, corroded pipes

MIAMI - Local 10 video shows the damage done to Miami-Dade County's decades old water and sewer pipes.

"It's decayed. It's falling apart," Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz said of the county's 14,000 miles of pipes. "People should be very worried right now."

Local 10 used a camera to go inside a leaking sewer pipe. Some have been in place since the late 1930s.

While age is a problem for some of the pipes, others are clogged with cooking grease. Some are corroded and others have caved in from pressure surges.

"It's very hard to predict when a pipe might fail," said Doug Yoder, the deputy director of the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department.

The department is planning a $1.5 billion upgrade to the water and sewer system. It's scheduled to last 15 years and be paid for with bonds.

"We know that there are pipelines that are at risk of failing," said Yoder. "Those are the ones that are getting the highest priority."

Those include the pipeline under Government Cut which carries sewage from the east coast communities to the Virginia Key plant.

Inspectors check the pipe network on a nine-month rotation and identify which ones need immediate attention.

The county must bring the system into federal compliance but is in catch-up mode since commissioners used about $500 million from the Water and Sewer Department's budget over the years for other county needs.

"We borrowed $25 million last year," said Mayor Carlos Gimenez. "We're replacing that money and we are not going to do that under my administration at all."

"A crisis condition that becomes apparent is what generates activity," added Yoder.

Yoder hopes to finish the upgrade before a major blow out happens.

"Do you come to work every day thinking, 'What am I going to face today?' That's the nature of being in the utility business," he said.

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