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County plans major overhaul to stop egregious practice at wastewater treatment plant: 'We have to accelerate nonstop'

The project will tackle several key problems with the facility.

The project will tackle several key problems with the facility.

Photo Credit: iStock

Florida's Miami-Dade County is getting a major infrastructure upgrade that will benefit residents and the environment: a series of improvements to the county's biggest sewage treatment plant, the Miami Herald reports.

The wastewater treatment plant on Virginia Key will receive $216 million worth of updates, as county leaders explained at the ground breaking on Feb. 1. The project will tackle several key problems with the facility.

First, the Virginia Key plant is currently vulnerable to rising sea levels and storms, the Miami Herald explains. It's in such a low-lying area that even a few feet of rising water would flood it, creating health problems and threatening the water supply for Miami and surrounding areas, so the new upgrade will build the plant stronger and higher to protect it. The facility will also add diesel generators to keep it running if a storm knocks out power — a scenario that gets more likely all the time, as Florida's hurricane risk increases.

Next, the upgrade will allow the Virginia Key plant to process and reuse wastewater instead of pumping it into the ocean, the Miami Herald reports. Currently, most of the water processed by the plant is dumped into the ocean a few miles offshore. While it is partially treated before this happens, the water still carries excess nutrients that are bad for the environment.

The new arrangement will mean more water is used to cool sewage processing equipment instead. Afterward, it will be pumped underground, not dumped in the ocean. Meanwhile, the plant will use less fresh water from the aquifer for cooling machinery, which is great news for water conservation.

Finally, the project will expand the sewage plant's capacity — a vital step considering that Florida is supposed to reuse at least 60% of its wastewater instead of dumping it by 2025. The law was created in 2008, but as Roy Coley, county water and sewer department director, told the Miami Herald, "We have to accelerate nonstop to make this goal of 2025. We have to do more work in two years than we've done in a decade."

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