Air quality good, but water contamination threatens
Written by Vanessa Zambrano on October 16, 2013
Miami-Dade’s air quality is good to excellent but contaminated groundwater sites threaten the county’s water supply, a new report from county officials states.
The Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources compiled the report and sent to the county commission, which has yet to discuss it.
The commission in March asked Mayor Carlos Gimenez to undertake the study, which was to point out “whether there are increasing trends in levels of pollutants in this geographic area, even if such levels do not violate federal, state or local standards.” The study was also to include recommendations to improve the quality of the air and water.
“The air quality in Miami-Dade County is considered good to excellent when compared to other metropolitan cities of similar size,” the report states. Despite the number of motor vehicles and their emissions, “the county’s location, limited number of large industrial facilities, and effective existing federal, state and local air quality regulations all contribute to maintaining its good air quality,” the report says.
Being on a peninsula with flat topography and strong Atlantic Ocean breezes help dissipate air pollution as well, it states.
Data trends that date to 2004 show that 2012 is the year that Miami-Dade had the highest percentage of good air quality, reaching about 95% days of the year.
Regarding air quality, the report states that existing programs need to be maintained, such as the promotion of use of clean energy vehicles and the county’s participation in the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, a voluntary collaboration of more than 200 public, private and civic stakeholders from Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties that is developing Seven50, a blueprint for ensuring economic prosperity and the best possible quality of life for the region over the next 50 years.
Other opportunities, the report states, are to improve outreach efforts to citizens and promote green activities, such as mass transit, bike riding and car sharing; to conduct workshops for industry to promote the use of low solvent technology and other environmentally friendly initiatives; and to expand the current mass transit network and replace old fleet vehicles with hybrid vehicles to reduce air pollution.
In terms of groundwater quality, the report says that out of the total number of groundwater samples collected, the percentage that exceeded standards of contaminants has remained at 1% or below.
“While progress has been made in preventing contamination,” the report warns, “the existence of 2,129 open contaminated sites requiring cleanup in the county continues to pose a risk to our water supply.”
Out of all contaminates sites, 64% are in one of two state-funded cleanup programs: the Inland Protection Trust Fund Program and the Dry Cleaning Solvent Cleanup Program, both created by the Florida Legislature to fund the cleanup of petroleum and dry cleaner sites, respectively.
“The most significant threat to our groundwater is volatile organic compound contamination from commercial/industrial sites, including dry cleaners. Currently there is no regulatory requirement in the county to monitor the groundwater below their site or have a monitoring well available for routine sampling by DERM [Miami-Dade County Economic and Regulatory Resources],” it states, “Further evaluation and discussion on modifications to the county’s Environmental Protection Ordinance with respect to operating requirements for dry cleaner facilities is recommended.”
Other recommendations include monitoring wells, some of which are deteriorating due to age; educating homeowners and businesses on means to prevent contamination; and upgrading sewer infrastructure.
The report says that although overall surface water quality is good, canal segments and portions of Biscayne Bay do not meet one or more of the established criteria, about 1.3% of the total.
“The greatest concern regarding maintaining the quality of the county’s surface waters continues to be pollutant discharges in the watershed and nonpoint source discharges of stormwater runoff into the canal systems,” the report states.
Recommendations to improve overall water quality include continuing to work with the state to define appropriate nutrient criteria for the canal systems in the county; assess those bodies of water that continue to be impacted by sewage contamination and find actions to solve it; indentify regions in the county where infrastructure additions would service basins with existing fecal coliform impairments; continue monitoring of surface waters; continue to implement or partner in local and regional habitat and water restoration projects.
The county commission hasn’t discussed the study yet, but the Land Use and Development Committee last week discussed a resolution directing the mayor or mayor’s designee to study traffic and the quality of the air and water in the area west of Miami International Airport, east of 147th Avenue, south of Northwest 58th Street and north of Kendall and make recommendations for improvements.
“Part of it it’s in my district, almost half of it. I would like that to be respectfully taken out of my district if it can be. I don’t have a problem with it but I think in my district the study has already been done,” said Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.
“We do not have the traffic information, but the environmental study that was done countywide was provided to the commission,” said Jack Osterholt, deputy mayor and director of Regulatory and Economic Resources.
The resolution stated that the commission had previously requested a countywide report on water quality and air quality, but the report that was produced was focused on the entire county, did not include an analysis on traffic issues and did not provide sufficient information on this particular geographical area.
Per Commissioner Diaz’s request, the resolution was amended to exclude District 12 and was approved by the committee.