FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Water service was restored to much of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday afternoon, thanks to a short-term fix, after a water main break left the city and neighboring municipalities without water service.
Mayor Dean Trantalis said at a 6 p.m. news conference that the water pressure was flowing a little lighter than usual, but should be running normally later in the evening.
He said a Florida Power & Light subcontractor repairing electrical lines near Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport damaged a 42-inch water main Wednesday. The water main supplies raw water from the city's wellfields to a water treatment plant.
The city was forced to shut off the water supply from the wellfields in order to repair the line.
Please only use water that is absolutely necessary. Please turn off all water for landscaping. We are working to avoid any disruption in your water service, however, please prepare for 24-36 hours without water in the City of Fort Lauderdale. More updates to follow.— Ben Sorensen (@BenSorensen) July 18, 2019
"City crews are working as fast as they can to restore service," Trantalis said. "If everything goes well, we could have service restored by this evening."
The mayor said in a news release Thursday afternoon that the city is working on a long-term resolution to restore water service to all customers affected.
Trantalis said the contractor has been cited.
"It's important to note that the subcontractor was not doing work for the city, nor was the work related to any city or airport project," Trantalis said.
Trantalis issued a news release Thursday evening, saying: "We managed to put a partial patch in the hole in the water main. Water pressure began increasing as a result. We are now building a concrete bunker around the broken part of the pipe that will seal the break. It will protect the patch and shore the pipe up from any breaks."
Trantalis said the bunker should be completed by 10 p.m. Thursday, allowing the treatment plant to return to near-normal operation.
"This will give us time to work on a permanent repair, which will entail redirecting the water flow to a backup line," Trantalis said in the release. "There are two options to accomplish the transfer to the backup line -- either by using shutoff valves or by building a temporary bypass."
The mayor said that once the water is flowing through the backup line that crews would be able to install a replacement pipe to the primary main.
"Please remember that even if these solutions succeed, the boil-water notice remains in effect and will likely last for at least 48 hours," Trantalis said. "It is imperative that folks in the affected areas continue to boil their water prior to consuming it. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation until further notice."
FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said the company is investigating the incident and working with the city.
Neighboring municipalities that receive their water from Fort Lauderdale are also affected. They are Davie, Tamarac, Oakland Park, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and Wilton Manors.
A boil-water notice has also been issued for all of Fort Lauderdale and for residents and businesses in Davie's Hacienda Village, east of U.S. Highway 441 and north of Interstate 595.
Bottled water will be distributed at the following Fort Lauderdale locations to residents in need:
- Beach Community Center - 3351 NE 33rd Ave.
- Mills Pond Park - 2201 NW Ninth Ave.
- Riverland Park - 950 SW 27th Ave.
All distribution sites were closed shortly after 6 p.m. They will reopen at 8 a.m. Friday. Officials said city offices are expected to be open for business Friday.
The general manager of The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale shopping mall confirmed that the mall's stores and restaurants are closed Thursday due to the water outage. The main Broward County courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale closed at noon. Camps held at schools in the affected areas were closed Thursday and will remain closed on Friday.
Port Everglades was also affected, but Fort-Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport is not impacted.
All buildings with fire pumps and municipal water pumps were being asked to have their facility managers available and prepared to shut down those pumps should they begin to cavitate from the loss of water pressure.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Chief Stephen Gollan said the department has never dealt with a water issue of this magnitude before.
"Fire Rescue has a mutual aid in place to handle fire suppression," he said.
Fire departments from Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties, as well as the town of Davie, are all part of that mutual aid effort, bringing in tankers that were staged around the affected areas.
The tankers hold anywhere between 700 to 3,000 gallons of water, with a last resort being drafting water from canals.
Gollan said the department has enough water and backups in place to handle any emergency situation.
For more information, residents are asked to call the city's 24-hour neighborhood service center at 954-828-8000.