July 26, 2014

Miami Gardens Officials: Sea Level Rise Impacting Septic Systems

By Virginia Torres and Lanee Jackson-Orange


MIAMI GARDENS – Underground septic systems didn’t much matter to Chris James, who owns a three-bedroom house in Miami Gardens.

That was until sewage started pooling in his backyard and he had to pay to move his tank into the front of his property where it would easily drain.

“In some aspects, I feel something should be done … to alleviate some of the pressure on the septic tanks,” said James, a University of Miami student and Miami Gardens resident of 10 years.

James is one of possibly thousands of residents in Miami-Dade County who are starting to learn more about what happens to their sewage once it goes down the drains.

Tanks a bigger, county issue

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Homeowners are becoming more aware of septic tanks as groundwater rises.

While the James household needed to move its tank because their backyard didn’t provide enough room for a the liquid to drain out of the tank, many more septic tank owners may be facing similar problems as underground salt water continues to rise eating away at tanks.

As sea level rises, saltwater intrusion causes some septic systems to become so corroded and brittle that they can no longer hold waste. And this has officials throughout Miami Gardens and the rest of Miami-Dade County worried.

“We’ve got to abandon septic tanks,” said Harvey Ruvin, the County Clerk of Courts and Chairman of the Sea Level Rise Task Force.

But abandoning septic tanks is something that Tom Ruiz, Director of Public Works in Miami Gardens, is all too familiar with trying to accomplish. And, he said, that solution isn’t easy.

“It’s not just bringing in the sewer lines, it’s also, the homeowner has to pay the connection to the lateral sewer line that’s being put in,” Ruiz said.

Efforts abound in Miami Gardens

And although there may not be enough funds to change septic systems across the entire county, progress is being made in a part of Miami Gardens.

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Click to learn about how septic tanks work.

Ruiz, for instance, plans to connect a small area of the city along the 441 Corridor to a central sewage system using funds from the Federal Community Reinvestment Act. It is just one of many possible solutions that are being considered to stay ahead of rising seas – and possible rising sewage.

Any public effort to address sewage problems is “helpful to the environment,” said James while standing on grass that tops his new septic tank, “and works for the good of the people.”