The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed an anticipated lawsuit against Miami-Dade, saying the county is not abiding by the federal Clean Water Act.
The 30-page complaint demands the county take measures to prevent overflows of pollutants, prevent blockages, and to repair deteriorating and broken sewer lines, pumps and force mains. It also seeks damages of $32,500 for each day the county violated the Clean Water Act prior to Jan. 12, 2009, and $37,500 for each day after that date.
The lawsuit was expected, as a procedural matter. The county, EPA, state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Justice have been negotiating a new consent decree over the failings of the county’s water and sewer department since May. A consent decree is a negotiated settlement of a lawsuit, yet no lawsuit had been filed until Thursday.
Two weeks ago Miami-Dade forwarded a $1.5 billion, 15-year plan to the federal government, proposing to rebuild rusty pipes, brittle pumps and sewage treatment plants throughout the county that in some cases are almost 100 years old. One of the largest fixes would be spending $555 million to reconstruct the controversial Virginia Key Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The county would spend another $394 million fixing two other plants, in Goulds and North Miami. The plan also calls for spending $408 million replacing miles of brittle transmission lines and to replace or rehab most of the 1,035 pump stations throughout Miami-Dade.
The $1.5 billion bill would be covered with new revenue bonds, and an increase in county water fees, which are among the lowest in the nation, administrators say.