Environmental Group Plans to Sue County Over Sewage Problems, Biscayne Bay Pollution UPDATED

Sh*t is hitting the fan. First, there were the leaks: over 65 of them in the past two years, inundating neighborhoods across South Florida with putrid water. Then came the bill: over $1.1 billion to fix the county's aging sewage system. The crap crisis has become so bad that last week the county announced that it wouldn't allow any more toilets in Coconut Grove.

Now a local environmental group is threatening to sue the county over its ancient and decaying wastewater plant on Virginia Key. "Violations have resulted in the discharge of millions of gallons of raw, untreated sewage into our waterways, which are a threat to human health and the environment," according to a statement by Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper.

Sh*tpocalypse has arrived.

UPDATE: An official from Miami-Dade Water and Sewer says the department hopes to agree with federal officials on a $1.4 billion plan to fix faulty infrastructure within the next 60 days.

Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper and a local citizen named Judi Kolsen informed the county of their intent to sue on Monday. They claim the county has repeatedly failed to enforce the Federal Clean Water Act.

"Miami-Dade sewage infrastructure failures are not a new problem, and unfortunately, neither is the County's delinquency in giving it the attention and funding it merits," said Waterkeeper's executive director Alexis Segal.

The county's 7,500 miles of sewage lines are so old and, well, sh*tty that they have ruptured over 65 times in the past two years, spilling more than 47 million gallons of untreated human crap. State regulators have sent the county at least nine separate warning letters over the problem, to no avail.

New Times requested comment last night from Miami-Dade's Water and Sewer Department but could not reach anyone. If we hear from the department, we will update here.

UPDATE: Doug Yoder, deputy director at the Water and Sewer Department, says that after five months of negotiation, his office is nearly done working with the EPA on a consent decree to fix the ailing system. He agrees with Segal that the county's sewer system needs a massive overhaul, but doesn't think things should be rushed.

"When you consider that this is an agreement that will likely be in place for at least 10 years and is going to deal with maybe $1.4 billion worth of projects, you want to be careful that everybody is in agreement," he says.

Yoder says that his department has already begun conducting a systematic analysis of aging sewer lines, and that the Virginia Key plant is also a top priority.

Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper's intent to sue letter focuses primarily on the Virginia Key plant, where four spills last year sent 19 million gallons of sewage gushing.

Even worse, at least a million gallons of the crud ended up in Biscayne Bay, leading to beach closures around the county.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.