Florida rethinks water treatment amid slower growth, regulatory changes

The Miami HeraldFebruary 22, 2011 

Miami-Dade County, faced with lean times and slower growth, is rethinking plans to build a large water-treatment plant in the south area of the county in hopes of finding a cheaper alternative to satisfy state regulators.

Earlier this week, the Miami-Dade County Commission, at the behest of County Manager George Burgess, abruptly withdrew plans to consider awarding a $49.7 million construction contract to John J. Kirlin LLC, the Fort Lauderdale firm that won a competitive bid to erect a 20-million-gallon-a-day water-treatment plant. The move comes just three months after Miami-Dade got approval from the South Florida Water Management District to defer or cancel several other projects the county had committed to build in order to meet its water-use permit requirements.

The county’s reassessment comes as Gov. Rick Scott’s new administration is signaling possible major changes in environmental regulation in the state. The state’s water management districts, including the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water use, for instance, are facing drastic budget cuts under the governor’s proposal. Meanwhile, bills proposed in the Florida Legislature would delay for five years the implementation of stricter rules related to pumping wastewater into the ocean.

Environmentalists say the combination of potentially weaker environmental regulation and financial hard times threaten to gut longstanding commitments made to protect water resources. “This is the worst climate for environmental protection since the rules were enacted,” said Alan Farago, a Miami activist who is conservation chairman for Friends of the Everglades. “We’re going back to the Dark Ages.”

Read the full story at miamiherald.com.

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