MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) — A stinking mess caused by a ruptured 36 inch sewer line could be under control by Thursday morning, after crews worked in filth for the better part of Wednesday to fix the break.
There was a minor scare just before 6 p.m. after the flow of sewage water had been capped. More sewage water erupted from the pit that workers had made, but authorities said it was just a “backflow” that was part of the process and would not cause more flooding from sewage.
Ground zero for the sewage nightmare is Harding Avenue and 71st Street, where the sewage line containing untreated human waste failed around 11 am Wednesday morning.
Public works crews say between 100,000 and 150,000 gallons of sewage gushed from the pipe like a filthy fountain, finding its way through storm sewers to Biscayne Bay. But the break does not affect drinking water usage; just the disposal of it. Therefore water is safe to drink, Nannette Rodriguez with the City of Miami Beach said.
Rodriguez told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench it’s not clear what made the pipe break. She said it was manufactured in 1937 but showed no signs of rusting.
She also said the pipe break was not a sign of a larger and more widespread problem with the infrastructure. She said the city recently had spent millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements.
For nearby business owners, it was a smelly disaster.
Johanna Salas, the co-owner of the East Ocean Chinese restaurant, said her business was empty. No one was coming in for dinner on a normally busy Wednesday night.
“Not too many people want to eat here because of the smell out there,” she told D’Oench. “You’ve been out there. You know how it smells. A lot of our business is take out. But there’s nowhere to park with traffic being rerouted. I hope this can be fixed sometime soon. It’s definitely a bad situation.”
Leiko Delvel also said she had few customers at her Leiko Hair Salon. “It’s bad, very bad,” she said. “No one is here. And I have bills to pay and my rent. It’s tough.”
Neighbor Derrick Attard of North Beach Physical Therapy said, “Right now I’m worried about the contamination from all the people walking on the streets after this sewage water.”
But Rodriguez told D’Oench that workers had disinfected the area with chemicals.
Other neighbors expressed concern.
“This is horrible,” said Luis Rodriguez, owner of nearby Bad Boys Bike Shop. “That’s a really bad smell coming out of that hole in the street.”
“It was just scary,” said attorney David Kahn. “It seemed like the street split open with sewage water rushing down the street.”
Public works crews and a contractor worked to plug the leak and stop the foul flow, and by late afternoon, they could see light at the end of the pipe.
Crews began to truck untreated waste from Bal Harbour, Surfside and North Bay Village that otherwise would have flowed into the broken line directly to the treatment plant, bypassing the break.
That reduction in sewage volume has helped crews get a handle on the problem. Nannette Rodriguez said it estimated that the wastewater/sewer break will be repaired and brought back into service before daybreak.
The public is being asked to avoid the area until repairs are completed.
As a way to minimize flow of sewer/wastewater into this area, the city is asking residents and visitors in the area to minimize discharge into drains and flushing of toilets.
The contractor hired by the city to fix the break cites old age for the rupture. “There’s really nobody to blame,” said Eddie Rodriguez of D.M.S.I Contractors. “They’re old lines, they’re really old lines.”
Because of the sewage draining into the bay, a no-swim order has been posted for the bay in the area of the break. No sewage was pumped into the ocean, as the combination of the trucking effort and the leak into storm sewers made that unnecessary.
The intersection will be closed for several days and traffic will be re-routed as repairs are done to the road, Nannette Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) has issued a precautionary swimming advisory for eastern Biscayne Bay from 88 to 57 streets.
The cause of the break has not yet been determined.