FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – On Friday night, crews managed to stop raw sewage from spilling into the streets in the Rio Vista neighborhood, but it was still spewing into the Tarpon River.
Crews were making progress on the latest sewer main break, located near Virginia Young Park on Southeast Ninth Avenue. It is the second break in the neighborhood in the past 10 days and it started just a day after the same line was repaired blocks away.
Officials believe that as crews pressurized the sewer line after the temporary fix was in place, it blew the line in a new location and raw sewage began to spew into streets and waterways.
“We’re concerned with the airborne quality, which we’ve heard nothing about,” said resident Mary Jean Lafferty.
Frustrated and worried residents met Friday night with District 4 city commissioner Ben Sorensen and city manager Chris Lagerbloom who did their best to answer questions and address concerns.
“They are frustrated, they are angry. I’m angry,” said Sorensen. “It’s unacceptable what’s happening in the city. It’s unacceptable to neglect this. It happened and we’re taking the hand that were given and working to improve it."
Resident John Wilkes said the long-term effects on what’s spilling into the river is going to be a problem. “The idea that you are going to stop the flow and that you’re going to be able to revitalize the river in a few days is pure fantasy.”
“Our city has not invested in our infrastructure as it should have for years and years and years,” said Sorensen.
By 8 p.m. Friday, crews had stabilized the the area surrounding the break and the spillage was no longer flowing into the streets. But raw sewage will continue rushing into the Tarpon River until the flow can be stopped.
Sorensen told Local 10 that the best case scenario is that crews would be able to stop the river flow by Friday night, then put in a new pipe within a week.
As for a long term fix, city officials are hoping to push through an aggressive capital improvement plan that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars over five years.
“Our concern is about what other future breaks could occur,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said. “It’s a very thin pipe and has been corroded over time.”
As of right now, there’s no guarantee another break won’t happen again.
On a page providing updates on the break, the city reported that an additional aerator was installed in the Tarpon River at South Andrews Avenue near Rose Drive and that there were 11 aerators operating 24/7 to help improve water quality in the Tarpon River and New River.
During daylight hours until dark, boats continued to patrol the canal system in and around Rio Vista, conducting skimming and debris removal on the waterways.