By Amber Diaz

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A woman who says she contracted MRSA after paddling in the Middle River is warning others that the water is not safe after several sewage spills.

The City of Fort Lauderdale has said that the situation in the Middle River is completely unrelated to the recent sewer main breaks.

CBS4 is now learning that some community members have begun warning others about a potential issue with the waters in the New River.

In late December and early January, the City of Fort Lauderdale began testing local bodies of water for pollutants after several pipes burst, spilling sewage into the river.

Testing covered a broad area near the spills including Rio Vista, Victory Park, and Coral Ridge.

“We were frustrated that water wasn’t being tested up in the Middle River, which is close to Coral Ridge… some of the other ones north of Broward Boulevard,” said Tim Meyers, a 954 Paddle Crew member.

Then, Jennifer Peters, a passionate paddleboarder became sick.

She said she contracted the MRSA virus after paddling from George English Park into the Middle River.

MRSA is a bacterium that causes infections in the body. Some can be life-threatening.

She spent Christmas Eve at a hospital’s emergency room.

CBS4’s Amber Diaz asked, “Did you have any idea that the water might be dangerous?”

“No, none. None at all,” said Jennifer Peters.

That’s when her 954 Paddle Crew members teamed up with local water testing organizations to find out just how bad the Middle River was.

The results were shocking.

“The tests that are being done, 130 is the threshold. We’ve been having some in the 900s, some in the 500s. So, it’s well above what considered unsafe,” said Meyers.

Paddleboard members say the city did a split test last week and the results were not good.

This was the city’s response:

“The situation in the Middle River is completely unrelated to the recent sewer main breaks that occurred well south of the area. The City’s water testing covered a broad area extending from the discharge points to define the boundaries of the impact. There is no known discharge from the City of Fort Lauderdale’s wastewater system affecting the Middle River. The bacteria levels in this waterway could be influenced by numerous sources including wildlife, stormwater runoff, live aboards in the area or boats dumping their holding tanks into the waterway. The Middle River also runs through and is influenced by three different municipalities – the City of Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, and Wilton Manors.”

Peters says it’s the city’s responsibility, accident or not to fix the problem.

She has since taken it upon herself to let others know there’s an issue.

“There was a guy throwing a ball into the water for his dog and I said to him, ‘you’ve got to get your dog out of the water,'” said Peters.

There will be a neighborhood meeting in the city hall next Tuesday, where they will present their findings to the public.

Amber Diaz

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