The Broward Group of the Sierra Club today announced its opposition to the federal immigration detention center set to be built in the South Florida town of Southwest Ranches.

The group “passed a resolution opposing construction of a 1,500 bed for-profit detention facility by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in the Town of Southwest Ranches in western Broward County,” according to a press release. “The center would be run under the auspices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has yet to award a contract to CCA for this project.”

The resolution that the detention facility would

  • “utilize approximately 180,000 gallons of water per day, whichwould place additional strain on the Biscayne Aquifer, virtually the sole source of drinking water for allof Broward County”;
  • “generate 180,000 gallons per day of wastewater,which would be injected approximately 2,600 feet underground, and the Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA) has found that injected wastewater may migrate horizontally into marine and other waters and vertically into usable drinking waters”;
  •  make the city of Pembroke Pines “the supplier of water for the facility.” “In 2007 the City was within 100,000 gallons per day of the use level at which the South Florida Water ManagementDistrict (SFWMD) Regional Water Availability Rule requires the city to construct an alternative water supply at great public cost,” the resolution adds.

The environmental group also argues that the project would further degrade the gateway to what remains of Broward County’s natural areas — even while the county plans on taking control of the nearby Everglades Holiday Park for the purpose of expanded ecotourism.

Matthew Schwartz, a South Florida environmentalist, tells The Florida Independent that the Biscayne Aquifer goes from the southern tip of Florida to around Boca Raton, where it slides into the Atlantic Ocean and mingles with saltwater.

“As 6 million people put their straws in that aquifer and take more fresh water out of it, the pressure decreases,” Schwartz says. “So one of the big problems in South Florida is that the salt water is moving in, so we’re losing our well fields, demand keeps increasing and there is less and less water.”

Schwartz said the South Florida Water Management District has a duty to provide water and flood control but doesn’t decide on a project like the detention center, adding that building the detention center is a political decision that would increase water usage in a “facility that people never leave.”

Schwartz adds that South Florida residents are already pumping 300 million gallons a day of semi-treated sewage out into the Atlantic Ocean.

“Two-thirds of Broward County is Everglades,” Schwartz says. “All of its connected; it’s all the Biscayne Aquifer. The basic idea is that this is an unnecessary project. We have to think of a different way of growth.”

In November, Florida Legal Services, a legal service organization representing the Florida Immigrant Coalition, sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano arguing that the immigration detention center does not comply with National Environmental Policy Act rules for federal agencies.

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