Officials: Pompano Beach sewage spill will take long time to clean up

POMPANO BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Pompano Beach officials said it’s going to take a long time to clean up a massive raw sewage spill that has polluted the city’s waterways and created a stinky situation for area residents.

Monday night, area resident Roberta Maugee said the dark water reminds her of a liquid with a better smell.

“It looks like chocolate milk, basically. It looks like what it is,” she said. “I don’t want to go on the boat. I’m scared. I don’t know if breathing this is safe, to be honest.”

The spill has not been kind to fish, turtles and other marine life in the area.

Earlier on Monday, 7News cameras captured dead fish and turtles floating in the canal near the spot where a contractor with the Florida Department of Transportation cut into a 42-inch pressurized sewage pipe, Friday.

The pipe has since been fixed, but not before millions of gallons of raw sewage flowed into the city’s canals.

“There’s gallons and gallons of raw sewage back here,” said area resident Pauline Mann.

Maugee has lived on the water here for a year and a half.

“It’s sad. It makes all of us very angry,” she said.

City officials said they are determined to resolve this situation.

“The City of Pompano Beach is doing everything in our power, around the clock, to fix this mess,” said spokesperson Sandra King. “Obviously, we didn’t create it, but it’s our city, and we’re cleaning it up.”

Mann, a boating enthusiast, has lived by the water in Pompano Beach for 30 years. Now she has to live with decaying organic matter festering near her home.

“There’s a footer that’s a support for the sea wall. There’s just a layer of this sludge sitting there,” she said.

The city put up more than 60 aerators in the canal near the rupture to help remove the putrid smell.

“They’re actually bubblers that are placed in the water that create oxygen and promote the growth in the water that helps, actually, naturally get rid of the debris,” said King.

“Well, I hope they have enough aerators. We’re just concerned,” said area resident Lisa Dreyer. “This is a boating community. We’ve been enjoying boating here for years and years and paddleboarding. Seeing our manatees and our fish die, it’s just devastating.”

Officials said crews are also skimming the canals to remove loose sewage.

“Both the county and the city are taking daily water samples to see where we are with the count,” said King.

Officials said the amount of sewage is dropping, but there is still a long way to go.

“There are what are called turbidity barriers that are in the water. There’s nine of them, and what that does is, as this sewage was heading out, it was catching debris, solid debris in the water,” said King. “We’re also vacuuming the canals.”

The city has hired private contractors and environmental specialists to assist in the cleanup efforts.

In the meantime, residents who live on the water. said they are heartbroken.

“That was the idea: to live on the water and live the Florida water life,” said Maugee. “I don’t know what the answer is. They need to tell us how long before we can use the water again.”

In addition to the environmental damage the spill is causing, officials said it will take millions of dollars to fund cleanup efforts.

Officials urged boaters and paddleboarders to stay out of the water. However, they said the water is safe to drink and bathe in.

Officials have scheduled a community meeting on Wednesday to address residents’ concerns.

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