Andrew Wheeler, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was in South Florida Friday to announce a $99.7 million loan to Miami-Dade County for improving the county’s wastewater treatment plants.
“Our mission at EPA is to ensure that all Americans, regardless of their zip code, have clear air, clean water and clean land,” Wheeler said. “We can’t accomplish our mission with outdated or ineffective infrastructure, which is why modernizing our nation’s infrastructure and protecting our water resources is a top priority for President (Donald) Trump.”
The money was allocated to Miami-Dade as part of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). Wheeler said the loans, which were given at a favorable rate, will go toward the goal of keeping the area’s beaches in good shape.
“The WIFIA loan alone will save the county more than $15 million compared to typical bond issuance,” Wheeler said.
“The Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department will construct deep injection wells at its 3 wastewater treatment plants. This approach will redirect treated wastewater from the ocean outfalls to these wells which will help keep Florida’s beaches clean and pristine.”
Wheeler joined several South Florida legislators in announcing the loan at the South District Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“The construction of these wells will benefit the 2 million county residents by increasing the ability of reclaimed water for reuse and improving the management of water flows during heavy rains or storms,” Wheeler said.
“These loans fulfill several of the President’s top priorities in one fell swoop: upgrading infrastructure, creating jobs and protecting public health and the environment.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott applauded the administration for the investment in the project.
“Continued environmental funding secures a clean water supply and protects the beautiful environment that makes Florida great and drives economic progress,” he said. “This funding is critical for improving water quality in Miami-Dade County.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio noted Miami-Dade will be among the first communities in the country to benefit from the WIFIA funds.
“This low-interest loan will enable the County to construct a new advanced wastewater treatment plant to meet state requirements to reduce ocean outfall discharges of sewage into our coastal waters by 2025, without overburdening water and sewer rate payers,” he said.
“I was Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives when the ocean outfall law was enacted, and it is very fulfilling to have been a part of this critical initiative to improve water quality at both the state and federal levels.“
“I know how far these dollars will go in our county,” U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart added. “It’s going to have a long-lasting impact on our wastewater treatment plant.”
Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who recently announced a run for county mayor in 2020, also praised the EPA’s decision.
“It will ensure that we have safe and effective management of our wastewater and it will help us meet the mandate, the important mandate from the state, to eliminate the discharges of our treated wastewater into the ocean.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said, “By utilizing this important funding opportunity, we will be able to come into compliance with state regulatory requirements designed to ensure the safety of our water and sewer system.
“In addition to meeting state regulations, these wells that will be built will help make our county’s wastewater system much more resilient for dealing with extreme weather events because these wells will be built to withstand storm surges, an especially important proactive measure for us to undertake since the county’s wastewater treatment plants are located on the coast, and are more vulnerable to the impact of rising sea levels.”
The visit is a follow-up to an appearance by President Trump at Lake Okeechobee, where the President reiterated a commitment to complete repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein were not on hand for Friday’s announcement. But they both released statements following the event.
“President Trump’s administration continues to demonstrate its commitment to helping address Florida’s unique water challenges,” DeSantis said. “These federal dollars being released by the EPA will be invested in critical water infrastructure upgrades and help protect the water supply for millions of Floridians for generations to come.
“We continue to do our part at the state level to push for historic investments to protect and restore our environment and water quality.”
Added Valenstein: “This substantial funding and support from Administrator Wheeler and EPA is an important step forward as Miami-Dade County works to upgrade its wastewater infrastructure to eliminate its ocean outfall.
“We appreciate the EPA and County’s commitment to improving Florida’s water quality and improving critical infrastructure.”