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The South Florida Roundup

Heavy rain brings flooding and sewage spills to South Florida

Saga Lake Pump Cutler Bay
Jenny Staletovich
A water management district pump to reduce the water levels in Cutler Bay's Saga Lake after last weekend's heavy rainfall and flooding.

On this week's South Florida Roundup, WLRN’s Wilkine Brutus spoke to two guests about the flooding and sewage spills in South Florida caused by the recent tropical system that went through the region.

Before it was named Tropical Storm Alex, it was an unnamed tropical system that made landfall on South Florida two weeks ago and brought ample wind and rain to the region.

Flooding occurred in cities all over Miami-Dade County, from Hialeah to Coral Gables to Hollywood in Broward County.

Cutler Bay mayor Tim Meerbott spoke to WLRN environmental reporter Jenny Staletovich about the heavy rain his city saw last week. He said their engineers were able to measure the rainfall and reported they were hit with 21 inches of rain.

Staletovich said they had an area east of U.S.1 called Saga Bay that completely filled up and stayed filled. They had to bring a water management district pump to bring the levels down.

“I talked to one of the residents who lived across the street who said they went to bed in a neighborhood and they woke up on an island because the streets were just all flooded around that area,” she said.

Cutler Bay is taking steps to mitigate flooding in the future. Alongside planning future storm water projects, they’ve bought vacant lots of property to use for flood control.

Not only did the tropical system flood streets, it also flooded the county’s sewage system. Filled to the brim with rain and wastewater, sewage spills occurred across the county.

The spills were caused by rainwater mixing with the wastewater in the sewage system, causing the overflows. The first sewage spill was reported at the central district plant at about 2 a.m. last Saturday. Five more occurred after that.

“We’re designed, our wastewater system, to handle around 300 million gallons of wastewater a day, but during the storm it got to 800 million gallons,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava. “So when we’re designed for 300 million, and we got to 800 million, it's amazing we did not have failure.”

Listen to the full episode above, and read more on Jenny Staletovich's reporting about the flooding and sewage spills here.

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Natu Tweh is producer of The Florida Roundup and The South Florida Roundup at WLRN.