Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

As Sea Levels Rise, Cities Must Build Climate Ready Infrastructure

Climate

Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper

By Alexis K. Segal

On Tuesday Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper (BBWK) submitted comments on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Miami-Dade County’s Consent Decree outlining the $1.6 billion dollar plan to start repairing Miami-Dade’s sewage infrastructure without accounting for the impacts to the system resulting from sea level rise, erosion and storm surge.

Despite articulated policies by the EPA, the Obama Administration and Miami-Dade County for a strong commitment to climate change adaptation and resilient critical infrastructure, the EPA and Miami-Dade decided to move forward with a zero sea level rise consent decree, lodged on June 6, in federal court pursuant to the EPA’s enforcement action against Miami-Dade for long standing violations of the Clean Water Act.

On May 14, BBWK won a hearing and was granted intervenor status, becoming a party in the EPA's enforcement case against Miami-Dade.

BBWK has been closely tracking the frequent sewage spills around the county since 2011, but Miami-Dade has been plagued with this issue for decades. The current settlement agreement will replace the governing decree lodged in 1994 and 1995, stemming from an earlier Clean Water Act enforcement case also related to sewage spills. Pursuant to that case, Miami-Dade received the largest civil penalties at the time for their violations. Although the former consent decree addressed many of the issues in the infrastructure—and Miami-Dade has been in compliance with those terms—it only accounts for one piece of the whole system. The Water and Sewer Department has been underfunded for years, and the sewage infrastructure system was described by a department manager as “held together by chewing gum.”

Joined by many local municipalities, advocates and national groups, BBWK lobbied hard for changes to the decree for months, providing multiple expert reports, practical solutions and specific suggestions to dramatically improve the draft consent decree before passage by the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Reports by Miami-Dade’s Water and Sewer Department approximate 12 billion is needed for total repair costs over the next 15 years, with approximately 1 billion for repairs that must be addressed immediately. The 1.6 billion dollar consent decree is slated to rebuild and repair significant aspects of the system, including the decrepit central wastewater treatment plant located on Virginia Key, a barrier island in Biscayne Bay.

Frequent sewage spills threaten swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. Modernization of city infrastructure is required in the face of a changing climate.

The ongoing viability of Miami-Dade County depends on resilient critical infrastructure that will withstand foreseeable storm incidents, rising seas and population growth and will set an example for similar opportunities around the country. The strength of federal and local policies on climate adaptation will be determined by their application to the situations like the sewer system rebuild in Miami-Dade County.

The time is now for all stakeholders, near and far, to call for a safe and secure future and demand climate resilient infrastructure in Miami-Dade county. The world just witnessed the recent catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Sandy. We must make smart, thoughtful decisions to plan for the future.

Now, since local and federal leaders have turned their backs, it will be up to a federal judge to decide how to proceed. We need climate-ready infrastructure. Let us, as a nation, make the decision to invest in prevention and not waste billions more in future repairs or preventable cleanups; let us spend our money wisely; let us prepare for continued growth sustainably; let us have a long-term vision of our future.

The comment period ends August 11, so there is still time to get your voice heard. BBWK’s comment letter was accompanied by 28 exhibits. You can make a big difference in the final outcome of this situation. 

Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Workers convert the Scottish Events Campus, where COP26 was to be held, into a field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients. ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP via Getty Images

The most important international climate talks since the Paris agreement was reached in 2015 have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view of a crude oil storage facility of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in the Krasnodar Territory. Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Getty Images

Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Examples (from left) of a lead pipe, a corroded steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. U.S. EPA Region 5

Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.

Read More Show Less
ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

By Dave Cooke

So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.

Read More Show Less

By Richard Connor

A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.

Read More Show Less