In Waste Plant Woes, Enough Electricity To Power 27,000 Homes Was Lost

For close to four decades, the Resource Recovery Facility (RRF) in Doral has processed some 685,000 tons of Miami-Dade County waste a year, waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Today its sole use is shredding tires. That’s because the plant was knocked offline by a fire that began Feb. 12 and burned on and on.

The waste-to-energy facility prior to the fire produced 77 megawatts of electricity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Megawatts are used to measure the output of a power plant, or the amount of electricity required by an entire city. One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts, which is 1 million watts.

If you’re struggling with the math, 77 megawatts is enough to power 27,000 homes for an entire year. That’s like taking almost 150,000 gasoline-powered cars off the road, also for an entire year. The plant also recycled some 21,500 tons of metal a year, enough to build 15,000 cars.

The RRF is operated by Covanta, a New Jersey-based waste management company that manages the Doral facility at 6990 NW 97th Ave. The plant was certified in 1978 and began processing Miami-Dade County waste in 1985.

“While the county continues to assess the viability of bringing the RRF back online in a limited capacity, we have not submitted any permit applications to date in this regard,” Frank Calderon, communications manager for the Miami-Dade County Department of Solid Waste Management (DSWM), told Miami Today.

“The county is currently working with Covanta to assess the viability of bringing the RRF back online, possibly in a limited capacity, until a replacement facility’s location, composition, and design is completed and the facility is constructed,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava reported to the county commission.

Waste is now being diverted to the North Dade Landfill, a Class III facility, and South Dade Landfill (SDL), a Class 1 facility. A Class I landfill receives general, non-hazardous household, commercial, industrial, and agricultural wastes. A Class III landfill receives yard trash, construction and demolition debris, waste tires, asbestos, carpet, cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, and non-appliance furniture. But even without the Doral fire, the north facility was scheduled to reach capacity by 2026, and the south by 2030.

When operating at 100%, Mr. Calderon told Miami Today, the plant had over 200 employees. Today, he says, 76 workers remain to manage the plant, almost two-thirds fewer. Mr. Calderon said the county held a special job fair for the extraneous Covanta employees to help connect them with job opportunities in other county departments. Those not finding other work with the county left Covanta, were offered severance packages or were laid off.

“The RRF was the centerpiece of the county’s solid waste disposal system,” Mayor Levine Cava said in her report prior to the fire.

 “The facility has two distinct operations. One for garbage, which consists of mixed materials including putrescible waste, and one for trash, which consists of yard waste and woody materials,” the mayor reported:

Putrescible waste is waste that decays.

County commissioners approved an amendment and extension to Covanta’s contract in October 2022, requiring the county to deliver 972,000 annual waste tons for processing, both garbage and trash.

The fire that occurred in February originated inside the G gallery on or near the end of the G1 Conveyor, Miami Today reported earlier, and spread to other areas of the resources recovery plant before it was extinguished.

“Days after the fire, portions of the Garbage Processing Building had to be demolished so Miami-Dade Fire Rescue could access the burning garbage inside. The trash processing building, however, escaped the brunt of the damage,” the mayor’s report said.

“My department did not incur any extra costs from the fire because the funds appropriated in the current budget year … have been reallocated to cover the current cost of moving the waste to various facilities,” Mr. Calderon said.

Source: Miami Today