By: Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich
President of the Doral Community Coalition
The foul and noxious odor we so often smell as we exit our homes and go about our daily lives has been a nuisance in this community for decades. Most of our residents are aware that the reason for the smell is Miami Dade County’s Resource Recovery Facility (the “Covanta Facility”) located within the City of Doral at 6990 NW 97th Avenue. This facility is operated by Covanta Energy.
The service Covanta provides is essential because they process solid waste that would otherwise go into the landfill and turn it into energy. Reducing the amount of waste into a landfill is important because landfills are a source of pollution. Nonetheless, our City deserves a solution to the odor problem. The opportunity to find that solution has arrived.
The Covanta Facility has a lease agreement expiring at midnight on October 31, 2023. The Miami Dade County Commission is the only government body with authority to renew this lease. Like most lease agreements, there are notice requirements. Unless the County Commission delivers notice to Covanta, at least one year prior to the expiration date for the lease, the lease will be automatically extended for up to four, five-year terms, with the final renewal term expiring on October 31, 2043. In other words, the time to solve this health and quality-of-life problem is NOW. If there is any issue within our City where each of us – friends, neighbors, business owners, and the like – can rally around, this is it.
There are hurdles to overcome of course. In a recent article, County Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava noted that ending Covanta’s lease and moving the trash elsewhere isn’t so easy. According to Mayor Levin-Cava, the County has sustainability targets, and turning half the County’s trash into energy appears to align with those targets. These concerns are understandable.
The facility’s trash processing services impact important environmental policies that affect the entire County. Nonetheless, with a genuine desire to resolve this problem, the County can find a solution that reconciles the intolerable impact of the Covanta Facility with the County’s environmental goals.
Mayor Bermudez and the City Council have firmly communicated this to the County’s leaders. Mayor Bermudez proposes, for one, rather than just hauling the “unders” to Okeechobee, haul most or all of it and spare our City the unbearable impact of processing it. The facility is also antiquated. Modernizing it would cost millions and whether this would solve the problem is unclear.
The City, as our advocate, has stressed to the County that we can’t go outside on certain days or at certain hours. Activities like Jogging, bike-riding, group sports, walking trails, park activities with our children, property maintenance, gardening, barbeques, and neighborhood socialization are constantly compromised because of this problem.
From January 2016 to date, Doral has received some 3000 complaints about the odor and its negative health effects. County leaders need to hear this from us, just as much as from our local leaders.
The City of Doral has worked on this conscientiously, despite its inability to control any decision-making around the Covanta Facility. Doral’s residents have also begun to understand that the City’s hands are tied. They’ve tried valiantly to mitigate, monitor, and control the odor via studies and in collaboration with Covanta.
However, without any authority over the facility, there’s only so much they can accomplish. We need their zealous advocacy, but even more, we need the Mayor, the County Commission Chair, and their staff to join us in stewarding this long-standing issue toward a resolution.
We must actively support our local leaders. We cannot be passive. We must be present, assertive, and insist we be heard. For the health and wealth of our City and its residents, County leadership needs to hear our stories and walk in our shoes. The solution is upon us.
If you are interested in joining the Doral Community Coalition’s efforts to educate our County leaders about the impact this problem had had on our families, properties, and communities, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article paid for and approved by Doral Community Coalition