On behalf of impacted community members, the grassroots group Florida Rising is requesting that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hold a public hearing to discuss a renewal permit for the Covanta trash incinerator in Doral that would allow the facility to operate another five years before it would need to be renewed again.
In an official comment letter sent to the DEP, the group points out that the aged incinerator, built in 1985, burns over a million tons of garbage each year and emits air pollution known to cause cancer, respiratory and reproductive health risks, and increased risk of death. The burner is responsible for hundreds of resident complaints to the city’s 311 hotline about noxious odors that make it difficult to enjoy the outdoors.
Florida Rising — alongside other grassroots groups including the Miami Climate Alliance, Catalyst Miami, and the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County — separately submitted a letter to DEP today signed by over 100 concerned residents objecting to the permit renewal.
The incinerator, located near Northwest 69th Street and 97th Avenue, has been the subject of recent letter exchanges between Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, since its lease will automatically be extended for up to 20 years if Miami-Dade County doesn’t take action by October 31, 2022.
“This facility needs to be shut down,” said Gina Romero, community organizer with Florida Rising and long-time resident of Doral. “The stench is disgusting, and residents are facing unacceptable health risks from the pollution.”
In its comments, Florida Rising decried the environmental racism and injustices incinerators present. Ninety-two percent of people who live within three miles of this incinerator are minorities and 36% live below the poverty line. Nationally, 79% of waste incinerators are in Black, Brown, and/or low-income communities. Waste incinerators are major emitters of fine particulate matter that can make communities more susceptible to respiratory infections like COVID-19, and statistics show that Black and Latinx residents in the United States have been three times as likely to become infected from COVID-19 as White residents.
“If the state approves this permit as written, it would be rubber-stamping lax controls over toxic air pollution and constant foul odors into this community,” said Dominique Burkhardt, senior attorney with Earthjustice, the environmental nonprofit representing Florida Rising in this matter. “It is time for Florida’s environmental regulators to prioritize environmental justice and people’s health over business as usual.”
With 11 incinerators, Florida has more municipal solid waste incinerators than any other state, despite the fact that incinerators utilize outdated and dirty technology that makes little sense during the climate crisis, especially in a state like Florida that is on the frontlines. Although labeled as a clean or renewable source of energy, incinerators are anything but — they are the most emission-intensive form of electricity production in the United States. Not only do they emit pollution harmful to human health, they also emit more greenhouse gases per unit of electricity than any other power source. Also, the incinerator’s byproduct — toxic ash — threatens human health.
“The Covanta Incinerator in Doral emits terrible odors and harmful pollution that is negatively impacting the daily lives of the people in the neighboring communities,” said MacKenzie Marcelin, Florida Rising’s Climate Justice Organizer for South Florida. “Incinerators are so expensive to maintain that they require taxpayer money and tax subsidies to stay afloat. There are better alternatives to both generating energy and managing waste that create more jobs and do not emit such hazardous pollution. Doral and surrounding communities should not have to bear the financial and health risk of a dying industry.”