From Ashes to Energy: Miami-Dade’s Controversial Plan for a New Incinerator Near Miramar

Miami-Dade County is considering building a new waste-to-energy (WTE) facility, or mass burn facility, at the old Opa Locka West Airport located near the border of West Miramar. This new facility is intended as a replacement for the Doral incinerator, which was destroyed last year by a fire. The previous plant was built prior to residential development in the area.

Mayor Wayne Messam and the City of Miramar Commission have been vocal opponents of the new facility. The proposed site is less than a mile away from the City and could negatively impact residents’ health and air and water quality.

Waste-to-energy incineration involves burning municipal solid waste to generate electricity and/or heat. It’s a controversial technology with both staunch supporters and detractors. Incineration can reduce the volume of waste by up to 90%, significantly diminishing the need for landfills. This is particularly advantageous for places like South Florida, which are both highly populated and have very low elevations. WTE plants convert waste into heat, which is used to generate electricity. 

Opponents of WTE incineration point to potential health impacts. Incineration releases pollutants, including carbon dioxide, dioxins, furans, mercury, and particulate matter, into the atmosphere. While modern WTE plants employ pollution control technologies, the potential for harmful emissions remains a concern. Also, the energy recovered from waste incineration is often less efficient than other forms of renewable energy, such as wind or solar power.  Investing in WTE facilities can lock regions into long-term commitments to provide sufficient waste to feed the incinerators, potentially undermining efforts to move towards a more circular economy.

The Miramar City Commission specifically called out a list of potential health consequences including:

Particulate matter leading to lung and heart diseases.

Heavy metals like lead and mercury causing neurological diseases.

Toxic chemicals such as PFAS and dioxins associated with cancer and other health issues.

The Doral incinerator was believed to have emitted pollutants associated with severe health risks such as cancer, respiratory problems, and reproductive health risks. Further information from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives emphasizes that burning trash impacts efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to air and water pollution.

The City of Miramar has created a page on its website with more information on the potential project.