A DISCUSSION OF THE STATUS OF WATER AND SEWER INFRASTRUCTURE IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY [SEE ORIGINAL ITEM UNDER FILE NO. 120938]
WATER AND SEWER
Audrey M. Edmonson, Prime Sponsor
Barbara J. Jordan, Co-Sponsor
Internal Mgmt. & Fiscal Responsibility Committee
Assistant County Attorney Jess McCarty read the foregoing proposed discussion item into the record.
The Committee proceeded to vote on this proposed resolution as presented.
Following the vote, Mr. Joseph Ruiz, Deputy Director, Water and Sewer Department, commented that the Consent Agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency would be presented to the County Commission for settlement on December 4, 2012.
Mr. Ruiz noted that water pipes were being inspected and that 90 out of 120 miles of large water mains had been repaired.
Office of the Chairperson
Internal Mgmt. & Fiscal Responsibility Committee
Infrastructure and Land Use Committee
Mr. John Renfrow, Director, Water & Sewer Department (WASD), noted a year ago he sent a memorandum to County Mayor Gimenez informing him of the numerous problems with the water pipes and sewer lines. Pursuant to this memorandum, Commissioner Jordan sponsored a resolution requiring WASD to prepare a report on the state of water and sewer infrastructure in the County. Mr. Renfrow informed Committee members that this report was completed a month ago, and found that the infrastructure was in a state of disrepair. He said that $1.1 billion would be needed to fix the problems that were found, and these initial repairs would be carried out over the next five to eight years. Beyond that, he pointed out, additional expenditures would be required.
Mr. Renfrow said that the Water & Sewer Department was currently engaged in discussions with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain $12 billion to finance the repairs over the next 15 years. He noted discussions between WASD and EPA staff members would result in a consent decree, outlining projects that would have to be carried out, including their cost, for the Board’s approval. However, Mr. Renfrow stressed how challenging it would be to identify funding for all these repairs, noting the Federal Government was currently identifying potential funding sources.
Mr. Renfrow indicated that the County had 13,000 miles of pipes, and problems were discovered as they were inspected. He pointed out that this state of affairs would not be resolved overnight as it would take time and money. He said that by the first quarter of 2013, WASD would likely receive the consent decree from the Federal Government requiring the repairs. He said the good news was that this would create many construction and engineering jobs, noting in the almost 30 years he had spent with the County, he had never seen such an aggressive capital program.
Chairwoman Edmonson asked how much would be required to start this program.
Mr. Renfrow replied that this would depend on the final version of the consent decree. He informed the Committee members that EPA and WASD staff members were currently meeting in Miami, and he expected that the consent decree would be finalized by the beginning of 2013.
In response to Chairwoman Edmonson’s question about the water fees, Mr. Renfrow confirmed that they would have to be raised, since they were the lowest in the country.
Responding to Chairwoman Edmonson’s question as to whether the fees would be doubled, Mr. Renfrow replied that eventually the fees would have to be tripled. He indicated that WASD was currently working with the Finance Department to obtain a $300 million bond to quick-start the repairs.
Commissioner Jordan thanked Mr. Renfrow for a comprehensive report and for providing the information by district. She said she was not surprised that the initial repairs would cost $1.1 billion, and that prospectively, the repairs would cost $12 billion over 15 years. She expressed satisfaction that the EPA staff members were in Miami, as they could help prioritize the projects which would need to be financed with the $300 million bond. She indicated that the consent decree would be helpful for the commissioners in identifying strategies to undertake this ambitious program.
Pursuant to Commissioner Jordan’s question, Mr. Renfrow confirmed that WASD has equipment, similar to an MRI, which could reveal problems within the pipes. However, he said that it was impossible to use the equipment on all the pipes, as the County had 13,000 miles of pipes, including 200 miles of the larger pipes.
In response to Commissioner Jordan’s question, Mr. Renfrow indicated that the report covered over 100 miles. He noted WASD chose these pipes, because if they ruptured, they would cause significant damage. He acknowledged that at this point WASD did not have a complete picture of the amount of work required to fix all the water pipes.
Commissioner Jordan suggested that Mr. Renfrow’s presentation be given to the full Board.
Chairwoman Edmonson noted she agreed with Commissioner Jordan’s suggestion and said that this item would be forwarded to the Board.
Commissioner Monestime pointed out that some areas of the County did not have sewer lines and questioned the likelihood of taking this opportunity to connect the pipes in these areas to sewer lines.
Mr. Renfrow explained that the work WASD would be carrying out would involve repair, and replacement rather than new construction. He indicated that included in the work would be the rehabilitation of six water plants.
Commissioner Monestime reiterated that some areas in his district did not have sewer lines, and pointed out that this would be the perfect opportunity to connect the pipes in these areas to sewer lines. He asked Mr. Renfrow to provide the Board with the approximate cost to construct and connect all sewer lines with the existing 13,000 miles of pipes in the County.
Mr. Renfrow replied that this would take a considerable amount of money, perhaps in the millions of dollars. He assured Commissioner Monestime that he would provide him with the cost estimate of connecting the areas that currently do not have sewer lines to the existing water pipes.
Commissioner Barreiro noted 10 to 12 years ago, when he was the Chair of the Committee, a company made a presentation on the technology used to view inside the water pipes. He observed that the cost was prohibitive, but pointed out that sometimes it was better to be proactive, because it was less expensive to prevent than to repair.
Chairwoman Edmonson thanked Mr. Renfrow for his presentation and said that she would contact Chairman Martinez to arrange this presentation before the full Board.
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