Negotiations between the sides began immediately with the hopes of reaching an agreement called a “consent decree.” The court has ordered a final deal by June 24.
In December, the feds filed the anticipated lawsuit demanding the county take measures to prevent the overflow of pollutants, prevent blockages, and repair deteriorating and broken sewer lines, pumps and force mains. It threatened fines of up to $37,500 a day if corrections aren’t made.
In the two solicitations since jettisoned by Gimenez, the county had requested proposals from experienced firms to oversee and plan the major water and sewer projects. Miami-Dade intends to issue additional solicitations in coming months to pick companies to actually perform the work.
Beyond quality-of-life and environmental impacts, the water and sewer system flaws can hurt local business development, too. Last year, a proposed project in the West Grove was placed on hold indefinitely because the Grove’s main pump station had reached maximum output.
There are now more than 50 permits being held up for businesses in Coconut Grove that want to build or expand, county administrators said.
On Tuesday, Biscayne Bay Waterkeepers, a local activist group whose goal is to keep the bay clean, will go before U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno seeking to become interveners in the government’s lawsuit. They’ve been pushing federal authorities and the county to include projected impacts of storm surge and sea level rise in any consent agreement.
Doug Yoder, deputy director of the water and sewer department, said the county has already studied estimated costs associated with sea level rise and storm surge, especially in the wake of the damage done by Hurricane Sandy last September.
The New York Times recently reported that breaches in water treatment facilities caused more than 10 billion gallons of raw and partly treated sewage to gush into waterways and bubble up onto streets and into homes as a result of the Category 1 storm. Damage to the facilities alone was estimated at more than $600 million.
Yoder said electrical problems from storm surge shut down the county’s southern-most plant near Cutler Bay for two weeks after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.