LowT Gimenez lets shit hit the fan... We deserve better!

Miami Herald

‘I have no parts for these pumps.’ The anatomy of a sewage spill in Miami-Dade County

Meanwhile: Mr. Bacon AKA insider Rafael Garcia-Toledo hands in the cookie jar??

Aroldo Hernandez supervises maintenance for Miami-Dade’s sewage plants, and he predicted a big mess in an email to his boss three months ago.

“I have no parts for these pumps,” Hernandez wrote to Albert Galambos Jr. on Jan. 29 about a waterfront station in Sunny Isles Beach designed to safely pump millions of gallons of raw sewage from nearby condo towers and homes and businesses to a treatment plant about three miles away in North Miami Beach.

Miami-Dade was already under a court order to replace the aging station with modern technology, and at the end of 2018 the county described the facility as being “beyond its useful life” due to constant exposure to the salt air of Biscayne Bay. Two of the station’s four pumps were out of service, and Hernandez hadn’t received the replacement parts he needed to fix them.

Now he was asking Galambos, chief of pump-station maintenance, for help renting two backup pumps for $27,000. Otherwise, Hernandez wrote, the station was in danger of having no working pumps if something went wrong.

“I feel this should be done before we loose the station,” Hernandez wrote in an email where a couple of typos did not obscure the sense of urgency conveyed by the maintenance supervisor. “My hands are tide up at this moment.”

Hernandez was right to worry. Three days later, on Feb. 1, the two working pumps at Station No. 301 became clogged with improperly flushed rags and other debris, leading to the complete failure the following morning that Hernandez had warned was looming.

More than 700,000 gallons of sewage from pipes serving more than 20,000 people poured out of the station at 350 Sunny Isles Beach Blvd. and into a storm drain that connects with Biscayne Bay. The discharge was serious enough that the county warned the public against using the bay and ocean waters for a 30-block area that included Haulover Beach and the sands off Oleta River State Park.

In two hours, the single station had discharged more than the estimated 650,000 gallons of sewage spilled throughout the entire county sewer system in 47 mishaps during the last six months of 2018. “That speaks to the severity of it,” said Kelly Cox, general counsel at the Miami Waterkeeper advocacy group, which monitors sewage spills. “In our eyes, that’s a big deal.”

Internal county emails and summaries obtained through a public records request show a struggle to get replacement parts and a stalled effort to bring in emergency pumps preceded the spill. The records also show the Water and Sewer Department glossed over some of the details behind Pump Station 301’s problems when called before the County Commission weeks later to explain how the spill happened.

Pump Station 301 is one of 34 pump stations flagged as requiring upgrades in the 2014 EPA settlement with Miami-Dade, the latest in a string of legal actions against the county’s sewer system that started in the early 1990s. The federal environmental agency sued Miami-Dade again in 2012 over the county’s failing sewer system, which it said violated the Clean Water Act. Most of the pump stations are being upgraded, but the 301 facility is still waiting for work to begin.

Miami-Dade’s sewer system spilled about 50 million gallons of human waste in the four years before the 2012 litigation, according to the EPA. Those discharges came from nearly 200 failures, and the settlement required Miami-Dade’s agreement to rebuild treatment plants, pipes and pump stations. At the time, the cost was estimated at $1.6 billion. Now the estimate is closer to $1.8 billion.

In March, Miami-Dade agreed to pay an extra $48 million to the engineering firm hired in 2014 to design and oversee the 15-year work program required by the settlement, including 34 pump stations. Miami-Dade had expected AECOM’s original $91 million fee to last 15 years, but it lasted only five. The county and firm engineers said more work was needed to complete the program launched after the 2012 EPA lawsuit, and the expanded scope increased the engineering and design fees.

Miami-Dade Water and Sewer workers unclog one of the impellers at booster station 559 in Southwest Miami-Dade. These clogs are made of “flushable” wipes, towels, underwear and other materials that should not be flushed down the toilet. Similar clogs caused two pumps to fail on Feb. 2 at a sewage station in Sunny Isles Beach, which had two pumps out of service when the problems began. Jose A. Iglesias JIGLESIAS@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

Share on Google Plus

About MiamiPapers

For more information about us, visit the "More Info" Tab. Thank you!
    Blogger Comment


Post a Comment