Miami Dade Commission Ignoring Complexity of Trash Smell Problem

By: Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, Esq.

On April 13, the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners Chairman’s Policy Committee approved a resolution initiating the development of a new waste-to-energy (WTE) plant to replace Covanta’s Doral facility, located near residential areas at times zoned by the Miami Dade County Commission.

The resolution gives Mayor Daniella Levine Cava just 60 days “to issue a solicitation for a design criteria professional to prepare a set of design criteria for a new plant (WTE) to replace the Resource Recovery Facility (RRF). ) of the county in Doral, Florida”.

Sponsored by President Jose “Pepe” Diaz, the original resolution would have zoned the new facility directly adjacent to the existing one. If passed, this version would have given the County Commission no opportunity to identify other locations. Thereafter, the new facility would be permanently established at Doral for several decades. According to the resolution, carrying out these projects simultaneously will save time and avoid the zoning approvals needed to move to a new site. He estimates the construction time at 7 years and says the new facility will eliminate the odor problem plaguing Doral.

However, Commissioner Diaz will leave the county commission in November, raising questions as to why he is rushing the new facility. Although it is a long-term project, as he said during the conference on April 13and meeting, President Diaz wants to solve this problem now. Waste management is one of the most complex issues facing government. Why an outgoing county commission chairman wants to decide such an important and costly issue for all Miami Dade residents before leaving office is beyond concern.

Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez continues to worry about how construction will disrupt Doral communities. In a note dated April 12, 2022, he said:

“A new facility near the existing facility will not ensure that the smells that many of our residents [experience], myself included, will cease. Additionally, the increase in already existing truck traffic to the facility in the same general area will continue to cause odors, traffic, and debris,” the memo states.

Preliminary estimates put the cost of a new WTE facility at between $900 million and $1.5 billion. Under the Commission’s plan, Miami-Dade County will pay for the new facility, placing a heavy burden on county taxpayers to fund it. This isn’t just a problem for Doral residents, it’s a problem for all Miami-Dade taxpayers.

Also on April 12, at a special meeting at Doral City Hall, Mayor Bermudez raised concerns about the new facility’s proximity to residential areas. Commissioner Diaz, at the county commission meeting the next day, amended the resolution to allow research at alternate sites but with severe restrictions. Commissioner Diaz insists that Doral is the only location in Miami-Dade suitable for a garbage incineration facility, although there is no evidence of studies at alternative sites.

Chairman Diaz is so adamant that the new facility should be managed by Covanta that he invited the county commission, the mayor, and the city commission to tour a more modern Covanta facility in West Palm Beach, located away from areas high density residential. Yet no county commissioner attended the tour.

Ahead of the committee meeting on April 13, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava released a report highlighting the need to gather more information and seek expertise before moving forward with the plan. Neither the county mayor’s report nor any of the detailed analyzes included were referenced at the president’s policy committee meeting. He was ignored.

Mayor Levine Cava’s report highlights the county’s need for a modernized waste management solution and calls for the 40-year-old Covanta facility to be updated while a new one is built.

To ensure plans are progressing according to best practices, the administration has recommended gathering more information by developing a request for information, or RFI. To be published within 60 days, the RFI will include market research, industry standards and recommendations for optimal location. He was ignored.

In addition to the technical aspects of a new facility, Mayor Levine Cava also raised financial concerns with the county commission’s resolution.

“There is no dedicated funding source for this type of project, and infrastructure funding from Washington, DC does not include funding for solid waste projects,” the report said.

A potential $1.5 billion outlay is not to be taken lightly. Instead, the mayor suggested the possibility of a public-private partnership to leverage the value of electricity produced at the facility and reduce the burden on ratepayers. A project of this magnitude impacts everyone in Miami-Dade and requires careful analysis.

One thing is clear: Doral residents overwhelmingly oppose a new trash incinerator near their neighborhood. To date, the Doral Community Coalition’s petition to end Covanta’s lease with the county has garnered over 5,000 signatures.

At the April 13 meeting at the County Commission, residents of Doral urged the Committee not to pass this resolution. They talked about the issues that the existing Covanta facility is causing in the community, including odors, truck traffic, and health and safety issues. They were ignored.

In light of this new resolution, it is more important than ever for the community of Doral to speak out against the renewal of Covanta’s lease. If the county commission does not act, the lease will be automatically renewed in October for a maximum of twenty years, which will make it extremely difficult to definitively resolve this quality of life problem in Doral.

Article paid for and approved by Doral Community Coalition

Sharon D. Cole