WILL THE FIRE AT THE COVANTA PLANT BE THE END OF A NIGHTMARE?
The fire that ignited some weeks ago at the Covanta Dade Renewable Energy plant, shows the danger this processing plan presents is not only environmental.
By: Edda Pujadas
The truth is that the patience of the Doral residential and working population, already tired after many years of bad odors emanating from the Covanta Dade Renewable Energy plant, reached its limit after fire engulfed in it some weeks ago.
This fire demonstrated how dangerous it is to have a waste processing plant like this one of more than 40 years of age, working around the residential and commercial areas of the city, close to schools and parks. Truth is, this plant does not seem to have been included in the plans of Alfred and Doris Kaskel when they purchased in the 50’s the land where Doral sits today.
Even when Miami Dade County renewed their contract with Covanta Dade Renewable Energy Ltd. in July of this past year, neither the residents of the city, nor the authorities of Doral agree that the plant should continue its operations within the limits of our city. They all simply want the garbage out of here.
Let us remember what had happened recently about this issue. The contract with Covanta expired in October of 2022, but Miami Dade Commissioners decided to renew it, this time for the construction of a new plant, close to the one that currently exists, also in Doral.
At that time the age of the existing plant was considered, this is 40 years old. The repairs that are needed to modernize it would be very expensive. Given this, the Miami Dade Commissioner for District 12 at that time, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, proposed to have a new plant built in the City of Doral.
That proposal was approved by the Miami Dade Commissioners. This left again the residents of Doral carrying with 62% of the garbage that is generated in Miami Dade County. The existing recovery resources plant started operations back in 1982, it was originally located in 100 acres of land, including the adjacent ashes fill.
This plant is the cornerstone of the garbage system of the county. It processes more than four thousand tons of solid waste per day, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. This results in an annual average processing of one million forty thousand tons of waste and in a production of around three hundred thousand MW/h of electricity which is enough to power thirty thousand homes.
This fire has made everyone reflect on the immediate need to relocate this garbage plant. All the authorities in Doral are already working on ways to make the decision that was taken last year by Miami Dade County, be reconsidered, as soon as possible.
The Mayor of Doral, Christi Fraga, is leading the necessary efforts to get the Miami Dade Commissioners to re-evaluate the decision that was taken in 2022. “We are acting as quick as possible to have this renewal contract revised and rescinded. We need them to understand how urgent it is to have this plant taken out of Doral.”
“The decision that was taken last year was to build a new plant, practically in the same place that this one is, this does not give Doral any benefit. What we want and need is that other locations where to build the plant are evaluated, locations that do not impact the residents of our city.”
Mayor Fraga stated that the Mayor for Miami Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava has already indicated that she agrees with the consideration of different locations. “Our petition is fair, more over after the fire, for this reason I am also inviting all the Commissioners for Miami Dade County to come inspect the plant, to review the damages and be able to determine for themselves the deterioration that the operation of this plant represents for Doral.”
Christi Fraga mentioned that this fire has put in evidence how dangerous it is to have a plant of this nature close to a residential area. “The cause of the incident is still unknown. Accurate inspections need to be conducted to determine the cause, while this happens the plant will be inoperative, and the waste is being distributed among the other two landfills that exist in the county, which are already at their maximum daily capacity.”
An important comment that Fraga gave about the collection of signatures. “If I am not mistaken, the community is searching ways to make their voice be heard, I just want to comment on the importance of being prudent about the sites where you input your personal and contact information, especially if what is being collected are funds.”
“We are trying to do this in a centralized way, from the City of Doral, but we need to evaluate which is the best legal vehicle to do it and we need to request authorization from the City Council, in case this is achievable. If this is the case, the residents will have a safe and trustworthy way to make sure that their petition is sent to Miami Dade County.”
Another important aspect, indicated by the Mayor, is the need to verify the health of the residents that are close to the plant. “It is of vital importance that if you have any health situation that might be related to the fire, you visit one of the facilities of the Jackson Health System (JHS) in Doral.”
Together with the Medical Director for Miami Dade County, Dr. Chris Ghaemmaghami, from Jackson Health System (JHS), every day patients are being evaluated. A strict report is being kept, if the residents experience any bad health issue, such as chest pain, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing or an acute rash, they should search medical attention as soon as possible.
If you have medical insurance, you can visit the Urgent center at UHealth Jackson at Doral, located at 7400 NW and NW 104th Avenue. In case you do not have insurance, we recommend that you visit the ER at Jackson West located at 2801 NW 79th Avenue. Remember that the main thing is to take care of your health and document all the medical incidents, so these can be presented before Miami Dade County.
Similarly, the actual Miami Dade Commissioner for District 12, Juan Carlos Bermudez indicated that his job is still the same as when he was the Mayor of Doral, to take the garbage outside of the limits of our city and make sure that new locations are taken into consideration, with less residential components.
“The residents of Doral have been dealing for a long time with the odors that emanate from the waste processing plant. Let’s hope that this unfortunate fire serves to find a new location for this landfill, one with less impact to the quality of life of the people.”
“My job, my intention has always been not that a new plant is built in Doral, but that a new place is found, far away from residential areas in general. Obviously, my Commission peers will not agree that this plant is built in their districts,” added Bermudez.
For Bermudez, who is also a resident of Doral, it’s not only about the bad odors and the ashes that can have an impact on the health, but also about the traffic of the trucks, in an area that is mainly residential, even before Doral was a city.
Commissioner Bermudez also invites the residents of the city to take their concerns to the leaders of Miami Dade County. They can send them an electronic message. You can find the email addresses of the Miami Dade Commissioners in the MDC webpage: https://www.miamidade.gov/global/government/commission/home.page
It is also important to highlight the efforts that the Doral Community Coalition is making to have the Miami Dade County Commission reconsider the decision taken of installing a new plant in Doral. For this purpose, in September 2022, they filed a lawsuit before the Miami Dade Court.
What is expected with this lawsuit is that the court determines that the vote to build a new landfill in Doral is nullified. According to the Doral Community Coalition, the study presented was not analyzed properly, because the Miami Dade Commissioners had to take the decision for their vote on the same day that the study was presented.
The desire is that a more exhaustive analysis of the situation is conducted, taking into consideration the position and opinion of the residents of Doral, with the understanding that the economic factor should not be the only criteria to be considered for this decision. Let’s not forget that Miami Dade County is the owner of the land, this implies less operation expenses in the construction of the new plant.
One of the factors that was taken into consideration when that decision was voted on, is that the Master Plan of the Department of Solid Waste of Miami Dade County, includes a recommendation for the construction of a new facility for waste processing to satisfy the future demand of the residents of the county.
The preliminary estimated cost for the installation of a state-of-the-art solid waste plant, with a capacity for more than four thousand tons is between $900,000,000 to $1,500,000,000. This plant will be like the one in West Palm Beach with better operation efficiencies, higher energy yields, captured recyclables, and a lower level of emissions. This plant also virtually eliminates odors outside the facility.
The facilities of this waste to energy conversion plant are recognized as a net reducer of greenhouse gases and a key factor in the reduction of methane emissions, when compared with landfills. Studies have shown that the counties and municipalities in the United States with waste to energy plants have better rates of recycling that the ones that their counterparts.
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