Crews working to repair 2 new sewer main breaks in Fort Lauderdale

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Crews are working to repair two additional sewer main breaks in Fort Lauderdale, bringing the total of ruptures to six in three weeks.

7News cameras captured workers digging into the middle of a street in the Victoria Park neighborhood, Tuesday afternoon, as raw sewage trickled into a nearby storm drain.

According to city officials, a 16-inch sewer main break occurred on Northeast Fifth Street near 16th Avenue in Victoria Park on Monday. The break happened just feet away from another break that was repaired on Friday.

A 12-inch sewer pipe burst on Northeast 36th Street, east of Bayview Drive, in the Coral Ridge Country Club Estates neighborhood, city officials said.

Area residents said the ruptures should serve as a wake-up call to city officials to take action to repair the crumbling infrastructure.

“It seems like an awful lot of breaks over a short period of time,” one resident said.

“Here we go again,” a second resident said. “It’s annoying. It’s very annoying. They’ll get it fixed. I know they will, but I hope another one doesn’t spring out.”

“The smell is terrible,” a third resident said. “Come and repair please.”

The two newest breaks are the fifth and sixth sewer main breaks in Fort Lauderdale since Dec. 10. The breaks in Rio Vista, Beverly Heights and the Himmarshee Canal have resulted in millions of gallons of sewage being pumped into the Tarpon River.

Fisherman John Tedder said the contamination from the ruptures made him contract a bacterial infection that caused his left leg and foot to swell.

“I’ve been fishing on the docks since ’77,” Tedder said. “It’s a disgrace. It happened overnight, just like that, and I was fishing every day. The water coming off my nets — you know, like, when I pull it over the seawall — the spray, but to get an infection, all you need is a little bit of bacteria and a cut, and it can run rampant.”

Jeff Maggio, another fisherman, said you do not have to be in the water to notice the effects from the sewage main breaks.

“Straight sewage — toilet paper, tampons, doo doo,” he said. “Where it’s getting polluted the most is where the fish spawn, so you’re not going to see 100-pound fish floating up dead, but you’ll see millions of little tiny fish and shrimp and crabs.”

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said the city is putting a pipe replacement plan in motion as fast as they can.

“The breaks are getting ahead of us,” Trantalis said over the phone. “The technology of the past — we’re now suffering the consequences of those pipes, but we are certainly doing our best to try to move this process forward.”

Officials said they have stopped the flow of sewage water in Victoria Park and are now focusing on installing between 20 to 40 feet of new pipe.

Frustrated residents said they are concerned about the health hazards that may come with the polluted water in their streets.

“We were discussing, ‘Are we next?’ and ‘What is going to happen?'” Virginia Park resident Gracie Cardwell said. “If we have any kind of breakage, our house is going to be flooded. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.”

City Commissioner Heather Moraitis addressed cleanup and repair efforts, Tuesday afternoon.

“We are at a point where it really is a crisis affecting all of us,” she said.

But resident David Lambert said this crisis is the result of poor leadership.

“This continuing buildup of hotels, condos and apartments… we don’t have the infrastructure. The roads can’t handle all the traffic,” he said. “I don’t know if the city is doing a proper job here of controlling how much growth [there is] in the city and having the infrastructure to protect it.”

The break in Coral Ridge has been classified as a minor break. The flow of sewage water was stopped, and crews worked late into the night on Monday to pump out polluted water left behind. The crews returned back to the scene on Tuesday to replace the damaged section of the pipe.

Crews are expected to finish cleaning up the two latest breaks by week’s end.

City leaders are asking residents in the area to avoid contact with standing water.

Trantalis will discuss the progress the city has made on rebuilding infrastructure and plans for improvements at a meeting held at the City Hall Commission Chambers, located at 100 N. Andrews Avenue, on Jan. 9 at 6 p.m.

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