April 7, 2014

South Florida gets $29 million in clean-water loans

Sewer treatment plants and systems in Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys to get federal loans as part of the Clean Water Act.

Gov. Rick Scott has awarded $29 million in federal loans to 10 South Florida water projects ranging from an overworked treatment plant in Miami-Dade County’s crumbling sewer system to a much-needed system in the lower Florida Keys.

The money comes from a program established under the landmark Clean Water Act of 1987, and is intended to help states meet the law’s requirements. Over the years, the program has provided more than $100 billion in loans.

In his announcement, Scott said he was giving Miami-Dade County an additional $6 million to increase capacity at its South District Wastewater Treatment Plant, which has already received a $120 million loan. The bulk of the remaining money awarded Friday, more than $19 million, goes to projects in Monroe County.

“We must continue our focus to improve water quality throughout the state to ensure that Florida remains the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family,” said Scott, who has come under fire by environmentalists for cuts to water management districts and the state’s environmental regulatory agency, which laid off almost 60 workers in 2012. Last month, Scott awarded $27 million in loans to Central Florida projects.

Miami-Dade’s decades-old sewer system has in recent years been plagued by problems. In May 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Justice Department and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection sued Miami-Dade for failing to comply with the Clean Water Act.

A few months later, the county issued a building moratorium in Coconut Grove, saying the overburdened system could not handle any more hook-ups. Last year, the county settled the federal lawsuit by agreeing to make $1.6 billion in repairs to the aging system.

Among the projects slated for loans in the Keys are: $6 million to build a treatment plant and pipes to serve the lower Keys; $6 million for a collection and transmission system in Islamorada; $2.6 million for an advanced water treatment plant that has already been built in Key Largo, as well as $4.2 million for “digesters“ — devices that help treat waste — in Key Largo’s treatment plant. The improvements are needed to deal with the increased effluent that will be coming from Islamorada’s new system.

Marathon received almost $550,000 for stormwater collection and sewage treatment.

The city of North Miami also received $3.5 million to correct the flow of stormwater in 13 storage basins. Miramar was awarded $560,000 to construct sewers and a lift station, while Dania Beach received $286,000 to correct flow problems at its plant.

The loans are typically used to build or improve wastewater treatment plants, according to the EPA, but can also be used to improve estuaries, address runoff from farms or cities, and pay for conservation projects.

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