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The Sewage Situation: A Roundup Of Infrastructure Updates In Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale sewage
Caitie Switalski
The sewage main break in George English Park leaked both on to Bayview Drive and into the city waterways on Jan. 30.

It's become part of daily life for Fort Lauderdale residents: pipes are breaking.

Six sewage main breaks in December spilled nearly 127 million gallons of waste into streets, yards and the city's waterways. It's impacting where residents can swim, and if they should boil water before they brush their teeth. 

The breaks have continued into the new year. Last week it was a 42-inch sewage main near George English Park. This week, a main broke in the Harbor Beach neighborhood. Then, two water pipes broke. 

City officials are transparent that breaks will likely keep happening, and residents are anxious for when and where they will occur. 

Here's what we know about the latest ongoings with the city's infrastrucure:

  • The Harbor Beach sewer main break that occurred on Monday has been fully repaired.
  • A bypass was installed last weekend at the sewer main break near George English Park, however it is containing most of the flow but not all of it. City crews plan to install new equipment Wednesday night to contain the remaining leak. 
  • While repairs continue at George English Park, the boat ramp and parking lot are closed. The tennis courts, playground and basketball courts are still open to the public. 
  • A water leak at Cordova Road that occurred Wednesday has been repaired. 
  • A precautionary boil water notice remains in effect for the water pipe that broke on South Birch Road on Tuesday. The pipe has been repaired.

Residents should continue to stay out of the water. Fort Lauderdale still has a precautionary advisory for water-related recreational activities in effect. Avoid swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking, boating, fishing, jet-skiing or canoeing within the shaded areas on the map, below. 

  •  General boundaries include both the north and south forks of the Middle River
  • The New River East of the Victoria Park neighborhood 
  • The Intracoastal Waterway and eastern canals
  • Advisory extends west, to Interstate 95 in Wilton Manors. 
Credit City of Fort Lauderdale / WLRN
To continue to check the advisory as it becomes updated, visit fortlauderdale.gov

A sewage main that runs north and south over seven and a half miles of the city is one of the main lines of the entire city's sewage system, and it's the main pipe causing the majority of the recent breaks. 

  • Installed in the early 1970s, the cast iron pipe is different widths as it travels under different parts of the city. 
  • Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom has described the line as a "spine" of the city. It does not have a redundant line. 
  • In January, Fort Lauderdale city commissioners greenlighted $65 million to replace the seven and a half miles of the sewage main. 
  • Two contractors have been chosen. One will work from the north end of the line down, the other will work from the southern end of the line up — and they plan to meet in the middle. 
  • At a fast-tracked pace, city officials estimate it will take 16-18 months to complete the project. 
  • They will also repair the current broken line to keep as redundancy in the system. 
  • Over the next five years, Fort Lauderdale city officials have pledged to invest at least $600 million into infrastructure projects.

Read More: Fort Lauderdale Allots More Money For Sewage; Some Residents Call For Less Development

While city leaders have not yet identified exact reasons for specific pipe breaks, there are factors putting pressure on the city's underground infrastructure as a whole. 

  • Age: Many of the cast-iron pipes were installed in the early 1970s and are now more than 50 years old. Reports suggest they are simply at the end of their reasonable life cycle. 
  • Corrosion: Saltwater intrusion bring sand and dirt with it to corrode the iron pipes over time. With more high tides, city leaders believe saltwater has has a substantial impact in creating weak spots in the pipes. 
  • Development: Many residents are pleading with the city to investigate what impact a development boom in recent years has had on stressing old infrastructure. City officials maintain they believe issues are more related to age, not stress from development, however, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis has expressed some concerns about development
  • A couple thousand signatures on a citizen petition launched in January have skyrocketed to over 12,000 signatures. The petition calls for city commissioners to pass a building moratorium on new development. 
  • A similar moratorium was proposed in 2016 after sewage leaks. Instead, the city created the Infrastructure Task Force

The city has also been including some environmental remediation efforts in its updates to Fort Lauderdale residents:

  • There are aerators adding oxygen to the water in George English Lake and the Middle River. Because sewage depletes oxygen for the marine life living in the waterways, the hope is that by adding back oxygen less wildlife will die. 
  • City crews also continue to skim debris on George English Lake and the Middle River. 
  • The city is conducting water sampling tests at 13 different locations contained within the advisory. You can stay up to date by viewing test results here