FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – More than 24 hours after a broken 54-inch sewer main flooded streets and driveways in the exclusive Rio Vista neighborhood, crews are still working to clean up rivers of waste.
More than a dozen trucks suctioned brown sewer water from the streets all day taking it to a wastewater treatment plant “It is smelly and gross,” said resident Janet Bromagen.
She still can’t drive down SE 11th Street where she lives because of the water, trucks and heavy equipment.
“I was hoping it would be done today but that’s not happening,” she said.
Larry Judd, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, estimates they are halfway finished.
“It’s a nuisance but I think everyone realizes it’s a temporary one and we’ll be fixed,” he said.
The city believes this was a worn 50-year-old pipe that broke. After the pump trucks couldn’t keep up with the thousands of gallons of sewage spilling to the surface, some of it was diverted into the Tarpon River which flows into the New River.
“We tried to capture as much of the sewage water with our pump trucks but to the extent that’s not possible, unfortunately, it’s gonna go into the water system,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.
The city is planning to spend millions of dollars every year to replace the old pipes and the aging infrastructure.
“This was avoidable if we had started to invested a lot more money into infrastructure at an earlier point,” said Ben Sorenson, the city commissioner whose district includes the Rio Vista area.
He said for years Fort Lauderdale city leaders took money from sewer and stormwater fees and used it in the general fund rather than on infrastructure improvements. He said the new city leaders are changing that.
“We’re gonna keep it in the sewer and stormwater and water treatment fund and reinvest that money back into the system so that we replace aging infrastructure and replace aging pipes,” Sorenson said.
Sorenson said it will be costly — likely more than $1 billion. He said the city plans to invest $200 million dollars on the project every five years.
“We’re course correcting,” he said.
Judd said he’s happy they have a plan.
“It’s a sign of progress and I think it’s a step in the right direction, who is to say it could have been done earlier but that’s politics, unfortunately,” he said.
The city is asking people to avoid the waterways around the area as a precaution.