||Mr. John Renfrow, Director, Water and Sewer Department (WASD), provided an oral report on recent breakages in the County’s water and sewer lines as follows:
-March 2010, a 54-inch large water main exploded in Hialeah;
-May 2011, a 48-inch water main broke at Miller Road and SW 122 Avenue;
-November 2011, a 12-inch water main broke at SW 8th Street, between 102nd and 107th
-January 2012, a 12-inch cast iron water main broke at NW 36th Street and Le Juene Road;
-June 2010, a 72-inch sewage force main exploded in District 1, causing extensive damage
to a canal bank and polluting the bay;
-October 2010, a 12-inch sewer pipe exploded at SW 112 and 107 Avenue;
-November 2010, a 12-inch sewer force main exploded at SW 87 Avenue and 92 Street; and
-July of 2011, a 24-inch sewer force main broke at NW 37th Avenue and 21 Street.
In addition, Mr. Renfrow noted a news release was issued in January 2011, warning the public that three critical sections of the existing pipeline beneath Government Cut, between Miami Beach and Virginia Key, were at risk of exploding at any moment. He also noted the company that analyzed the condition of this pipe, also analyzed the pipe at Miller Road and SW 122 Avenue in District 11, which exploded a few days after the report was submitted to the Department, showing the accuracy of the analysis. Mr. Renfrow said he did not know when the pipe beneath Government Cut would explode, and that at least 20 percent of the pipeline Countywide had been inspected and found to be in similar condition. Mr. Renfrow noted breakages in water and sewer lines were reaching epidemic proportions nationwide and continually increasing, primarily due to the lack of funding to repair them. In addition, the Department received notices of violations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection concerning the deterioration of treatment plants. Mr. Renfrow emphasized the importance that these issues be addressed proactively rather than reactively, following an emergency. He also noted that in August 2011, he sent the Mayor a memorandum outlining critical capital projects needed by WASD, in which he cautioned the Mayor of the County’s deteriorating water and sewer infrastructure.
Chairwoman Edmonson said she felt the members of the Commission needed to be fully aware of this issue, and prepared to address costly proposals from WASD in the near future. She asked Mr. Renfrow to address the three hot spots in the pipeline beneath Government Cut.
Mr. Renfrow reiterated that the project at Government Cut was necessary because the existing main pipeline needed to be replaced and placed deeper in the Cut to avoid interference with the project in the shipping channel, which was being dredged by the Army Corp of Engineers to accommodate the entry of new mega ships and freight liners from Panama to the Port of Miami. Mr. Renfrow explained that the apparatus used by Pure Technologies to test the integrity of the pipeline was designed to test water pipes only, not sewer lines. He noted the Department would be submitting a change order in the amount of $1 million to change the design and tap into the pipeline near Miami Beach. He noted this issue was time sensitive and the Board must take action soon to avoid an overflow of sewage into Biscayne Bay. Mr. Renfrow noted he was working closely with the City of Miami Beach Mayor to resolve this issue.
Commissioner Edmonson questioned whether the pipelines had exceeded their life expectancy and if so, for how long.
Mr. Renfrow noted that most of the larger transmission pipes were installed in the 1950s and 1960s, and had exceeded their life expectancies, which was typically 40 to 50 years. However, the pipe under Government Cut was installed by a manufacturer that had installed faulty pipes throughout the County and was no longer in business. The County had approximately 13,000 miles of water and sewer pipeline, 200 miles of which were installed by this manufacture and fortunately, older pipes had not busted more frequently, Mr. Renfrow noted. He noted that the County had not invested much funding in its water and sewer infrastructure.
Commissioner Jordan noted she had requested that the County Attorney’s Office prepare a resolution directing the Administration to prepare a comprehensive report on potential breakages in pipeline, broken down by Commission Districts. She noted the entire Commission needed to know the extent of this problem, and said she looked forward to receiving the report and discussing the costs and solutions.
In response to Chairwoman Edmonson’s question regarding how long it would take for the Commission to receive the report, Mr. Renfrow noted he could prepare the report quickly; however, the inspections had not been completed and not all pipelines subject to breakage had been identified. In the past, it was typical to patch pipelines to prevent breakage, which was an expensive, but short-term solution, Mr. Renfrow pointed out.
Commissioner Jordan asked Assistant County Attorney Geri Bonzon-Keenan to ensure that the resolution she previously requested for a comprehensive report on the aging water and sewer infrastructure also included a cost analysis to determine the cost of repairing water and sewer lines and pipes in each Commission District. Later, Commissioner Jordan also asked that the Water and Sewer Department Director submit a written report on water and sewer pipeline breakages to the County Commission; and Chairwoman Edmonson asked to be listed as a co-sponsor of Commissioner Jordan’s proposed resolution.
Commissioner Monestime expressed appreciation to Chairwoman Edmonson and Mr. Renfrow for addressing this issue. He noted he was aware of many pipeline breakages throughout the County, including one in his District (Dist 2), and this must be addressed proactively.
Commissioner Diaz noted this was a critical issue, and the public needed to know the extent of it. He asked Mr. Renfrow about the outcome of some past studies involving the seepage of sewer lines and its impact on the aquifer.
Mr. Renfrow noted those studies resulted in the repair of gravity sewage pipes at night when the flow was low, which prevented the overflow of groundwater into the treatment plants. Mr. Renfrow noted the Department was so successful at reducing flows to the plant that representatives from the Industry and the Federal Government sent people to Miami to be trained on this process. The current problem, he noted, involved the potential explosion of huge water pipes ranging from 48 to 74 inches and leading to treatment plants, causing extensive damage to the community.
Concerning Commissioner Diaz’s question regarding whether the focus of the inspection was to identify only the larger pipes subject to breakage or would it also include inspection of the 8-inch and 12-inch pipes; and regarding the possibility of retrofitting and injecting a fiber mesh coating to reduce the pressure in pipelines temporarily, Mr. Renfrow noted smaller pipelines were not excluded from the study, noting some 12-inch pipes had exploded. However, he would recommend that the focus be placed on larger pipes first.
Mr. Renfrow noted the current process was to inject Kevlar into the pipes, which was done entirely underground without having to tear up the streets and it lasted much longer.
Commissioner Diaz noted it was important to know why pipes were exploding in certain areas more frequently than in other areas. He also noted that fixing these pipes involved millions of dollars, and the issue should be addressed comprehensively, not piecemeal. He pointed out the deterioration and explosion of water and sewer pipes in Tampa, Florida caused large sinkholes, and he questioned how long pipelines would last if sealed with Kevlar.
Mr. Renfrow noted pipes sealed with Kevlar could last more than 50 years.
Chairwoman Edmonson noted many of the County’s water and sewer lines were old, deteriorating and in need of replacement. She noted her intent was to ensure that members of the Commission were fully aware of this issue and that the solution may require bond financing. She commended Mr. Renfrow for being candid about this issue, and suggested this report also be presented to the Board of County Commissioners.