By Ted Scouten

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The drills are working and thousands of feet of sewage pipe are ready to go in the ground.

Crews are replacing 7.5 miles of sewer main in Fort Lauderdale. It goes from north of Oakland Park Boulevard – winding its way from one end of town to the other – to the sewage treatment plant south of the 17 Street Causeway.

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Breaks beginning in December spewed more than 200 million gallons of raw sewage onto the ground and into waterways. The epicenter was the upscale Rio Vista Neighborhood.

“All of a sudden the water was rushing and it was smelling and it didn’t stop,” a resident told us in December when it first happened.

After that, it was a stinking, soggy mess.

Today, Rio Vista is looking quite different. A massive above ground bypass pipe is gone after crews laid 2,000 feet of underground line.

“Looks great now!” said Darin Kronin, who lives nearby. “We’re really excited they’re gone.”

Not only is she happy the pipes are gone, but they’re laying sod in the park that was once covered in sewage. And the construction fence is about to come down.

“I’m excited,” Kronin said as she drove around the neighborhood in her golf cart. “We just took a little loop to see what was going on. I saw there was sod. I’m really excited about it.”

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On Bayview Drive and NE 27 Street, crews are about to lay nearly a half mile of pipe beginning next week.

“This segment here is about 2,500 linear feet and it will take about three weeks,” explained Richard Crow with Murphy Piping.

So far, city officials tell us more than a mile of new pipe has been installed with another half mile ready about to go in.

Because of the “stay-at-home” order, work is getting done faster.

“If there was ever a time that we could do more drilling quicker it’s because there’s less cars on the road,” said Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom. “And it has helped this project and moved other projects forward that were being held for the fall and even the spring of next year.  We said there’s less cars on the road, let’s just get it done,” he said.

The COVID-19 crisis also caused some issues with the sewer system. As shoppers are finding a hard time locating toilet paper, things that shouldn’t go into the toilet were causing clogs.

“We would end up with a paper towel and non-disposable wipes in the system.  That would get to the pump station,” Lagerbloom said.

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The entire 7.5-mile project is expected to be complete by summer of next year. However, if crews remain ahead of schedule, like they are now, it could be a few months earlier.

Ted Scouten