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Miami-Dade County Clean Water Act Settlement

(Atlanta, GA - June 6, 2013)   Miami-Dade County, Florida (Miami-Dade) agreed to resolve allegations by the United States and State of Florida that Miami-Dade violated federal and state water pollution control laws and regulations at its three wastewater treatment works.  The proposed settlement resolves unpermitted discharges of sewage, NPDES permit effluent violations, and imminent and substantial endangerment claims due to sewer spills and the threat of a 54 inch sewer line under Biscayne Bay breaking.  The injunctive relief required by the settlement is the substantial repair of three waste water treatment plants and sewer system at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion.  As part of the settlement, Miami-Dade agreed to pay a civil penalty of $978,000 ($511,800 to the United States and $466,200 to the State of Florida) for the violations that have already occurred. The consent decree provides for stipulated penalties to accrue in the coming months if violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit or the Consent Decree occur. The stipulated penalties are divided evenly between the United States and the State of Florida.  Miami-Dade also agreed to spend at least $2,047,200 for a Supplemental Environmental Project to eliminate contaminating septic tanks. 

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Overview of Sewer Authority and Facility Location

Miami-Dade is located in southeastern Florida and has a direct service population of approximately 800,000.  Miami-Dade owns and operates a separated sanitary sewer system, including three wastewater treatment plants (WWTP).  Effluent is discharged to the Atlantic Ocean and injected into an underlying aquifer.

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  • Between December 1, 2007 and October 6, 2012, Miami-Dade reported to EPA numerous sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), totaling more than 50 million gallons. Of these SSOs, more than 28 million gallons of untreated wastewater reached navigable waters of the United States.  Miami-Dade’s SSOs are not authorized by any NPDES permit and those that reached waters constitute violations of Section 301 of the CWA, 33 U.S.C. § 1311. Additionally, all of these SSOs are indicative of violations of the operation and maintenance requirements found in Part II, Section B.1 of the NPDES Permit issued to Miami-Dade by EPA for the Central District WWTP (FL0024805), and Part II, Section B.1 and Section IX.7 of the consolidated wastewater permit for the North District WWTP (FL0032182-001).
  • Miami-Dade has experienced numerous violations of the effluent limits contained in the NPDES Permit for the Central District WWTP.
  • EPA documented numerous operation and maintenance violations at Miami-Dade’s Central District WWTP in violation of Part II, Section B.1 of the NPDES Permit issued to Miami-Dade by EPA for the Central District WWTP (FL0024805). Such violations include treatment equipment being out of service (e.g. influent grit chambers, oxygenation tanks and/or final settling tanks) and failure to meet the pretreatment sampling and analysis requirements set forth at 40 C.F.R. §403.8(f)(2)(v). 
  • Imminent and substantial endangerment claims pursuant to Section 504 of the CWA, 33 U.S.C. § 1364, to health and welfare of persons, as well as irreparable injury to human health, waters, and property, including animal, plant and aquatic life of the state, due to the numerous SSOs and due to the continued threat of failure of Miami-Dade’s aged and deteriorated force mains, including the deteriorated 54-inch force main underneath the Government Cut portion of Biscayne Bay (the Government Cut line) that conveys wastewater from the City of Miami Beach to the Central District WWTP.

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Injunctive Relief

The lodged Consent Decree will require Miami-Dade to implement comprehensive injunctive relief to rehabilitate its WWTPs and sewer collection systems (WCTS) within approximately fifteen (15) years and to develop and implement specific CMOM programs that the EPA determined were missing or deficient. The goal of this injunctive relief is to eliminate SSOs and achieve compliance with the NPDES Permits.

Specifically, the proposed Consent Decree provides that Miami-Dade will continue to implement a number of CMOM programs that it has been implementing pursuant to the previous consent decrees, including: (1) an adequate pumping, transmission and treatment capacity program; (2) a pump station remote monitoring program; (3) a computerized WCTS modeling program; (4) a spare parts program; and (5) a volume sewer customer ordinance program.

The proposed Consent Decree further provides that Miami-Dade will develop and implement a number of additional CMOM programs, including: (1) a fats, oils and grease control management program; (2) a WCTS and WWTPs training program; (3) a sewer overflow response plan; (4) an information management system program; (5) a sewer system asset management program; (6) a gravity sewer system operations and maintenance program; (7) a pump station operations and preventative maintenance program; (8) a force main operations, preventative maintenance and assessment/rehabilitation program; (9) a WWTP operations and maintenance program; and (10) a financial analysis program.

Finally, the proposed Consent Decree will require Miami-Dade to implement certain specific capital improvement projects, as specified in Appendix D to the Consent Decree. The projects were based on known defects at the WWTPs and within the WCTS.  Such projects are prioritized in terms of criticality, with the areas at greatest risk of rupture and/or failure being rehabilitated/replaced first such as the Government Cut line.

Upon entry of the proposed Consent Decree, the Court’s order will effectively terminate the existing two (2) consent decrees. Miami-Dade has estimated that the work required by the proposed Consent Decree will cost as much as $1.6 billion.

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Pollutants Reductions

  • Total Suspended Solids – 15,916 lbs/year
  • Biological Oxygen Demand – 15,235 lbs/year
  • Chemical Oxygen Demand – 38,130 lbs/year
  • Total Nitrogen – 2,473 lbs/year
  • Total Phosphorous – 353 lbs/year
  • Untreated sewage – 10,210,000 gallons/year

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Health and Environmental Effects

  • Total Suspended Solids (TSS) – TSS indicates the measure of suspended solids in wastewater, effluent or water bodies.  High levels of TSS in a water body can diminish the amount of light that penetrates the water column and reduce photosynthesis and the production of oxygen. 
  • Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) – BOD is an indirect measure of the biologically degradable material present in organic wastes.  High BOD means there is an abundance of biologically degradable material that will consume oxygen from the water during the degradation process.  It may take away oxygen that is needed for aquatic organisms to survive.
  • Chemical Oxygen Demand (CBOD) – CBOD is a measure of the capacity of water to consume oxygen during the decomposition of organic matter and the oxidation of inorganic chemical.

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Civil Penalty

Miami-Dade County will pay a civil penalty of $978,000 – with $511,800 to the United States and $466,200 to the State of Florida.  The penalty was derived according to the Clean Water Act Settlement Penalty Policy.

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State Partner

The State of Florida is a co-plaintiff.

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For more information, contact:

Alan Morrissey
Water Enforcement Division
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC  20460
(202) 564-4026
Alan Morrissey (

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