The contract for the processing of garbage between Miami-Dade County and Covanta Dade Renewable Energy Ltd may be renewed in 2023 and would include four more options for renovation for a total of up to 20 years
By: Edda Pujadas
Although the solid waste processing plant located on NW97th Avenue in Doral is supposed to be built with the most up-to-date systems to control emissions generated during the treatment of garbage, the city’s residents insist on their concern for our environment.
It is for this reason that Digna Cabral, Councilwoman for the City of Doral, held a meeting with the director of the Miami-Dade’s Solid Waste Management Department, Michael Fernandez, to discuss and analyze the actions that could be taken so the processing of garbage stops being a problem for those that work and live in Doral.
It is important to take into consideration that each of the residents of Miami Dade County generates an average of 2,000 pounds of garbage per year, therefore the first thing that comes to mind is, what could we do with these residues if the landfills and solid waste processing plants do not exist?
For example, the Waste Management plant in Doral, managed by Covanta Dade Renewable Energy, Ltd and whose facility is owned by Miami Dade County receives more than a million tons of garbage per year. This garbage is treated through a combustion process that manages to reduce it in 90% and turns it into ashes.
These ashes are one of the issues that Councilwoman Cabral commented on during the meeting. She stated that these ashes remain in the environment, and can even be seen in common areas and on the roofs of the communities to the North of the City of Doral. Even when these are cleaned frequently, they get quickly filled with ashes again.
“Today, I speak as Councilwoman, representing the concerns of the residents of Doral, but also as a resident myself because I also feel affected by the operations of the plant, especially with regard to the odors and the ashes, which tend to intensify during the weekends”, said Digna Cabral.
Cabral pointed out that she understands the importance of the plant’s operations, but that in the face of the imminent renewal of the contract between Miami-Dade County and Covanta Dade Renewable Energy Ltd in the year 2023, she thinks it is essential to consider the implications this has for the residents of Doral.
“I believe that the possibility of moving the plant outside of the residential area of the City of Doral must be taken into consideration. There are some pieces of land close to the Turnpike that might be considered. I believe that it would be more useful for the County to invest in moving the plant than in making updates or improvements to the existing facilities.”
The City of Doral Councilwoman, who has expressed a special concern for the environmental problem that the processing of this garbage generates, also told the director of the
Miami Dade’s Solid Waste Management Department of her curiosity to know which are the investments that will be made in the plant to mitigate the environmental impact and the benefits that these will bring to the residents, workers, and visitors of Doral.
She recalled that recently an agreement was reached with Waste Management, the company that manages the facilities of the landfill in the nearby city of Medley. The agreement verses over the reduction of the emission of odors and the mitigation of the environmental impact: “in the next days we will follow up on the compliance of the agreed actions.”
On his side, Michael Fernandez positively highlighted the importance of this meeting and referenced the importance of the work that this plant conducts for benefit of the whole community. “Covanta does not only get rid of the garbage that is generated by the residents of Miami Dade County, but it also turns it into energy. The residues are recycled and transformed into 77 megawatts of electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, enough electricity to power 29,000 homes during a whole year.”
The Director of the Miami Dade Solid Waste Management Department explains that Covanta also collects 20,000 tons of metal per year, enough metal to build 13,000 automobiles. Regarding the ashes, he explained that these are being used as raw material in the construction field.
“Garbage has to go somewhere and moving the plant is not an easy or unilateral decision. The environmental, operative, and economic implications of a different location must be evaluated,” comments Fernandez. He also indicated that apart from keeping the garbage outside of the landfills, they are committed to guaranteeing safe operations and minimizing environmental impacts.
When considering the environmental implications, it is important to understand that less residues in landfills reduce greenhouse emissions by 870,000 tons of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), which is the equivalent of taking 123,000 automobiles off of the road.
In Covanta, garbage is discharged via a hermetical process. The facility has an automated gate system that opens, allowing the trucks to come in. It is not until the gates close that the discharge of garbage is initiated. They also have equipment that suctions air and absorbs the air during the garbage burning process, as well as a specialized system to control the odor.
While highlighting the importance of the operation of Covanta in Doral, Fernandez stated that this facility complies with all the legal and environmental requirements at the local, state, and federal level. It is an essential component of the final processing system of waste that is generated in Miami Dade, it creates local jobs and instead of using energy, they save it and produce it.
Even when Councilwoman Cabral is conscious of the efforts that Covanta is doing in order to mitigate the environmental impact for Doral, she insisted on the importance of looking for definitive solutions to the odor problem. Fernandez, on the other side, stressed the fact that they are committed to guarantee the safe operation of the plant and to minimize the environmental impact and for this reason, they will work together with the City of Doral in order to apply the necessary measures to protect the environment.