FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Fort Lauderdale mayor says crews have been able to partially stem the flow that has spilled millions of gallons of sewage wastewater into a Fort Lauderdale neighborhood and nearby waterways since Tuesday afternoon.
Crews worked overnight and into the morning to repair a 54-inch hole in the sewer main that ruptured near Southeast 11th Street and Ponce de Leon Drive, For Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said.
By morning, trucks being used to pump wastewater overflow in the Rio Vista Neighborhood nearly tripled from six to 16, Trantalis said.
The city’s plan was to initially install a clamp where the pipe, estimated to be from the 1970s, burst.
That measure was ditched and the preferred approach will be for crews to bury a second pipe in the ground to reroute the wastewater flow so they can ultimately repair the broken pipe, Trantalis said.
“We are going to establish a valve at either end,” Trantalis explained. “That will reroute (the wastewater) so that when we do have (the) opportunity, we can eliminate the flow through the broken pipe and get into the ground and replace it.”
The raw sewage, according to Trantalis, was partly diverted at different water management stations and that, combined with the added pump trucks, has alleviated some of the wastewater from pouring into the neighborhood and the Tarpon River.
However, millions of flowing gallons have already impacted nearby residents and the environment.
Crews were dispatched late Tuesday to place sandbags as a precaution to keep water flow from entering homes.
Ponce de Leon Drive remains closed between Southeast Ninth Avenue and Southeast 12th Way.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and city officials have expanded a precautionary advisory urging residents to avoid swimming, fishing or other water-related activities. Affected waterways include the New River west to Southwest Ninth Avenue, the Tarpon River, Lake Juanita, Rio Granada, Rio Alcazar and Rio Valencia east to the Intracoastal.
Officials said Tuesday that they do expect impacts on local fish and wildlife and were working with the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission to implement a plan.
Part of that plan is in progress, officials side, as workers are building a berm to surround the pipe break and plan to use pumps and hoses from the pump trucks to keep the water from finding the Tarpon River.
A complete fix of the situation is expected to take from five to seven days, officials said.