NORTH MIAMI, FLA. (WSVN) - A spill at a North Miami wastewater treatment plant is causing coronavirus concerns due to high quantities of the virus in the water, according to officials.

The spill happened at the North District Waste Water Treatment Plant, at 2575 NE 156th St., Monday.

“There have been very large quantity of virus in the wastewater,” Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease professor at Florida International University, said. “It is a concern. It’s a real concern, and as long as there is virus circulating, it’s a way to continue the outbreak. The concern is if we have any kind of break in the sewage system or a failure or a spillage.”

Approximately 1.8 million gallons of wastewater spilled at the facility. Officials said around 10,000 gallons ended up in nearby mangroves that are not accessible to the public.

Jennifer Messemer, a spokesperson for the facility, said the spill was caused by the torrential rain and an influx of unflushable materials, such as wipes and paper towels.

“We had a significant amount of unflushable materials coming into the plant at that time, kind of made the perfect storm, pun intended,” she said.

The materials clogged up and shut down the system. The toilet paper shortage during the pandemic likely led to alternative materials being flushed down the toilet, officials said.

“Anything besides toilet paper down the system, eventually, it will make it to our treatment plant, and it can cause serious malfunctions,” Messemer said.

7News cameras captured a clog of wipes and grease in one pipe.

“I know what to flush and what not to flush, and I think it’s an educational process,” a passer-by said.

Educating people on what to flush and what not to flush could help keep an infectious problem away from neighborhoods and waterways.

As for the water quality in South Florida, experts said keeping people off the beaches has worked wonders.

“Right now, we have very clean seawater, and as long as our sewage systems remain well-managed and wastewater is properly treated, everything should be fine,” Marty said.

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