Poop Pipeline Could Burst On Fisher Island, But County Wants Deep Dredge Done First

What a load of crap. Earlier this week, county officials warned that unless unruly Miami Beach condo owners allowed for construction on a waste pipeline stretching to Virginia Key, the sewer line could soon break. "I can tell you it's going to rupture, I just can't tell you when," said John Renfrow, director of the water and sewer department. "It's a ticking time bomb."

A county email obtained by Riptide, however, shows that another section of the pipeline between Fisher Island and Virginia Key is actually much more likely to explode. Yet, officials decided to replace the Miami Beach pipe first simply to facilitate the controversial Deep Dredge project in the port.

The 54-inch pipeline ferries 25 million gallons of sewage per day from Miami Beach to Fisher Island and then to Virginia Key, where there is a waste treatment plant.

Fisher Island residents, some of whom have already sued to stop the Deep Dredge out of fear that the blasting will damage their seawalls, believe that the county is putting the dredge project ahead of their best interests.

Eduardo Vega, assistant director of engineering and capital improvements for the county, admitted as much in an email obtained by Riptide (emphasis added).

· A condition assessment of our 54-inch force main from the City of Miami Beach to Virginia Key has revealed thirty seven (37) segments of pipe with broken wires. Fourteen (14) of these segments are in state of incipient failure. Three (3) of these segments are within Miami Beach and Fisher Island. Eleven (11) are from Fisher Island to Virginia Key.

· At this time, we cannot repair all these critical segments because the system cannot be place out of service. The reason we are first addressing the segments under Government Cut first is due to the Federal Dredging project. We planned to perform this project relocation in advance of the dredging without knowing the existing pipe condition. Therefore, for that reason we are extending the pipeline relocation upland to Miami Beach to replace the entire pipeline between FI and CMB.

· Yes a report was completed by Pure Technologies US, Inc. and delivered to the Department on March 20, 2012.

· We have also tasked an engineering consultant firm to start preparing plans and specifications to replace the existing 54-inch force main from FI to VK. Currently, the project is unfunded for construction but rest assure that we will make our best effort to find the funds that are necessary to replace this critical force main.
So, of the fourteen potential failure points on the poop pipeline, none appear to be between Miami Beach and Fisher Island. Yet that's where officials are replacing the pipe first. Why? Because of the Deep Dredge.

Meanwhile, the most vulnerable part of the pipe will have to wait, leaving Fisher Island and Miami's waters at risk.

Local and state officials are doing everything possible to get the dredge done as quickly as possible. A month ago we reported that state politicians -- frustrated with environmentalists' efforts to stop the port project -- pushed through legislation that will force a quicker-than-usual final decision on the dredge. As a result, the Sierra Club is now calling on Governor Rick Scott to veto parts of the bill that deal with deep dredging.

The legislation doesn't just "deprive citizens

of access to fair and impartial justice," it is also "designed to arrive at a specific

outcome in a pending lawsuit and makes a charade of the administrative hearing process," the group says in a letter to Scott.

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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.