By: Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, Esq.
On April 13th, the Chairman’s Policy Committee of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners approved a Resolution initiating the development of a new waste-to-energy (WTE) plant to replace the Covanta facility in Doral, located near residential areas zoned at the time by the Miami Dade County Commission.
The Resolution gives Mayor Daniella Levine Cava only 60 days “to issue a solicitation for a design criteria professional to prepare a design criteria package for a new (WTE) plant to replace the County’s Resources Recovery Facility (RRF) in Doral, FL”.
Sponsored by Chairman 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 option to identify alternative locations. Then, the new facility would be permanently established in Doral for up to several decades. According to the Resolution, completing these projects simultaneously will save time and bypass zoning approvals needed to relocate to a new site. It estimates the construction time at 7 years and claims the new facility will eliminate the odor problem plaguing Doral.
However, Commissioner Diaz will be leaving the County Commission this November, raising questions as to why he is fast-tracking the new facility. Even though this is a long-term project, as he stated at the April 13th meeting, Chairman Diaz wants to resolve this issue now. Waste management is one of the most complex issues government faces. Why an outgoing County Commission Chairman wants to decide such an important and costly issue for all of Miami Dade residents before he leaves office is beyond concerning.
Doral’s Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez continues to raise concerns about how construction will disrupt communities in Doral. In a memo dated April 12, 2022, he stated:
“A new facility near the existing facility will not guarantee that the odors that many of our residents [experience], myself included, will cease. Additionally, the increase in the already existing truck traffic to the facility in the same general area will continue to cause odors, traffic, and debris,” says the memo.
Preliminary estimates set the cost of a new WTE facility between $900 million and $1.5 billion. According to the Commission’s plan, Miami-Dade County will pay for the new facility, placing a heavy burden on county taxpayers to fund this. This is not just an issue for the residents of Doral, it is an issue for all of Miami-Dade’s taxpayers.
Also on April 12th, in a special meeting at Doral City Hall, Mayor Bermudez relayed concerns about the new facility’s proximity to residential areas. Commissioner Diaz, at the County Commission meeting the next day, did amend the resolution to allow research on alternative sites but with severe restrictions. Commissioner Diaz insists Doral is the only location in Miami-Dade appropriate for a garbage incinerator facility, despite there being no evidence of studies on alternative sites.
Chairman Diaz is so adamant that the new facility should be run by Covanta that he invited the County Commission, Mayor and City Commission to tour a more modern Covanta facility in West Palm Beach, located away from high density residential areas. Yet, no County Commissioners attended the tour.
Before the Committee met on April 13th, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava issued a report emphasizing the need to collect more information and seek expertise before moving forward with the plan. Neither the County Mayor’s report nor any of the detailed analyses included were referenced during the Chairman’s Policy Committee meeting. It 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 constructed.
To ensure the plans progress according to best practices, the administration recommended to gather more information by developing a Request for Information, or RFI. To be released within 60 days, the RFI will include market research, industry standards, and recommendations for an optimal location. It 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 source of funding for this kind of project, and the infrastructure funding coming out of Washington, D.C. does not include funding for solid waste projects,” says the report.
A potential $1.5 billion expenditure should not be taken lightly. Instead, the Mayor suggested the possibility of a public-private partnership to leverage the value of the electricity generated at the facility and reduce the burden on taxpayers. A project of this size impacts all residents of Miami-Dade and requires careful analysis.
One thing is clear: Doral residents overwhelmingly oppose a new garbage incinerator facility near their neighborhoods. To date, the Doral Community Coalition’s petition to terminate Covanta’s lease with the County has amassed over 5,000 signatures.
At the April 13th meeting in the County Commission, Doral residents urged the Committee not to pass this Resolution. They spoke out about issues the existing Covanta facility causes in the community including odor, truck traffic, and health and safety concerns. They were ignored.
In light of this new Resolution, it is more important than ever that the Doral community speaks out against renewing Covanta’s lease. If the County Commission fails to act, the lease will automatically renew in October for up to twenty years, making it exceedingly difficult to finally resolve this quality-of-life problem in Doral.
Article Paid for and approved by Doral Community Coalition