MIAMI (CBS4) – In Miami Dade County, busted water mains are as common as a cafe con leche.

On Tuesday we watched as a 48-inch water main split apart creating a sink hole that tried to swallow a school bus and sent animals scurrying for cover.

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A few weeks earlier a similar rupture on Miami Beach involving a sewer pipe, left an indelible stench on a neighborhood for days.

Doug Yoder is the deputy director of Miami Dade County’s Water and Sewer Department.  His agency is responsible for more than 7,500 miles of water lines and another 6,000 miles of sewer pipes throughout the county.

Yoder says accidents like the one Tuesday are inevitable and will continue to happen. Most of the pipes in the system are more than 40 years old, with some around for 100 years.

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County officials estimate that more than $300 million in repairs on the existing system are needed in the next ten years. But funding those repairs is going to be a challenge. The county is facing a budget deficit this year.

And even though water rates in Miami Dade County are among the lowest in the country — county commissioners have refused to increase water rates to maintain and upgrade the system

Yoder described it as “a balancing act” to find the right balance between rate hikes and infrastructure needs. The problem, he notes, is that if you skimp on repairs and maintenance to the system now, it will cost taxpayers far more in the long run to fix.

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So we can expect accidents like this to continue to happen but if it is any comfort, we won’t be alone. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are more than 240,000 water main breaks every year across the United States.

Jim DeFede