Espinosa said MWL hosted a campaign lunch two years ago for the commissioner who represented the area, Carlos Gimenez, who was then running for county mayor, to explain the company’s sewer needs.
In April, she wrote a letter to the district’s current commissioner, Xavier Suarez, and to local members of Congress noting that President Barack Obama emphasized manufacturing jobs in his State of the Union address, and imploring the county to consider extending the pipes when it begins a planned water drainage project.
“It’s a no-brainer,” she said.
Because extending the pipes is so expensive, the county has long depended on developers to pay for the new infrastructure when they build on undeveloped land and then “donate” the pipes to the county, water and sewer department Director John Renfrow has explained to commissioners. Some general-obligation bond money may be available to fund limited system expansions, he has said. Special taxing districts can also pay for the expansion.
The $1.6 billion federal consent decree commissioners approved last month, which will be paid for by bonds backed by water-rate hikes for consumers, only addresses fixes to existing, antiquated pipes. And Miami-Dade needs an additional $12 billion in other improvements to its current system — a figure that does not include extending the lines to properties without access.
Add to that the more than $8.5 billion it would cost to extend water and sewer pipes to all residential and commercial properties, and “it would be about $20 billion to get there,” Renfrow said last month.
The federal agreement does include one project to extend sewer pipes to industrial properties along Northwest 37th Avenue north of 36th Street, he added.
The department’s cost estimate, released in April and partially updated this month, showed it would be most expensive to extend water — not sewer — pipes to the 100 commercial properties across the county that do not have access to them. Price tag: about $5.8 billion. The estimate included vacant properties in built-out neighborhoods but not in undeveloped swaths of the county.
Bringing sewer pipes to the more than 93,000 residential properties on septic tanks could cost about $2.3 billion. More than 3,600 residential properties that rely on well water could be put on water lines at a cost of about $243 million.
But the most pressing need is extending sewer lines to the more than 7,500 commercial properties that cannot discharge business and industrial waste into their septic tanks, according to Monestime’s proposal, which is co-sponsored by Commissioner Audrey Edmonson. The water and sewer department initially estimated that price tag at $386 million but this month lowered the figure to about $230 million.
Monestime, who requested the cost estimate in September, said last month the county is losing out on new business — in some cases in its core near Miami International Airport and major transportation arteries — by keeping them disconnected from the sewer system.
“We cannot continue having this,” he said.