(WSVN) - It is a project meant to help reduce storm flooding, but it’s stirring up a flood of outrage among residents. The Night Team’s Kevin Ozebek investigates their environmental concerns.

Ted Inserra is no stranger in this Fort Lauderdale neighborhood…

Ted Inserra, resident: ”I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 67 years.”

He walks his dog, Lily, every day alongside the canal on Coconut Drive.

He says it’s in bad shape.

Ted Inserra: “I mean, I just was stunned.”

Work to improve storm drainage began in the River Oaks neighborhood in 2021. It eventually made its way over to the canal.

Ted Inserra: “I just saw what they were doing to the canal, cutting down all the trees.”

He also recorded a crew dumping gravel into the canal in February.

Ted Inserra: “The color, the color of the water was just, it was milky white.”

Ted’s neighbors also noticed what was happening.

Mallorie Cove, resident: “I was concerned. I’d walk up and down here early hours of the morning and I would see their progress.”

And that “progress” in and around the canal is what led the neighbors to demand an explanation from the city.

Ted Inserra: “I had city officials down here, and they looked and saw what was going on and while it was happening and, and then nothing.”

The residents then took their complaints — and Ted’s video — to the Broward County Environmental Permitting Division.

David Vanlandingham, Broward County Environmental Permitting Division: “We did see the video … that was activity that we did not authorize.”

David Vanlandingham is the director of the Broward County Environmental Permitting Division. He says that gravel pile is one of several violations filed against Fort Lauderdale’s stormwater drainage project.

This five-page notice says there was an “unauthorized gravel fill … in two locations in the Coconut Canal” and “…more mangrove alteration than proposed.”

David Vanlandingham: “We’re particularly concerned as well about the preserve.”

The notice also says there were “unauthorized discharges into a wetland preserve area” at “River Oaks Stormwater Park and Preserve.”

Vanlandingham says storm drainage improvement projects are common, but contractors have to keep the surrounding environment in mind.

David Vanlandingham: “And when construction contractors need to do this work, often they have to install utilities in dry soil. in order to do this, they often need to pump down the groundwater table.”

That water is then discharged in another body of water, but it can stir up large amounts of silt and sediment. The water will then appear “cloudy” or “milky.”

David Vanlandingham: ”And we call that water condition, ‘turbidity.’”

The county requires that turbidity levels stay below a certain number, but levels at the canal, and the preserve, were well above the limit.

David Vanlandingham: “It’s not only unsightly, but it can cause harmful effects to aquatic life, particularly when discharged over a period of time.”

We asked the City of Fort Lauderdale about its plans to fix all those violations.

It tells 7News: “The city and its contractor have initiated actions to comply with these requirements … we will continue to work with Broward County to ensure all permit conditions are met and water quality is protected.”

Ted Inserra: “They came in and removed all their rock and sediment dam that they had clogged all in there … There’s still some things that we’re not 100% happy on, but the improvements are going into the right direction.”

Ted and his neighbors plan to keep an eye out for any more problems on their block.

The Broward County Environmental Permitting Division says if there’s an environmental concern in your neighborhood, you can report it by calling 311.

You can also file a report online.


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