Ft. Lauderdale’s Sewage Problem


Joe Cavaretta

Workers pumping out sewage from streets in Ft. Lauderdale

Dylan Montesi, Contributor

Sewage breaks in Ft. Lauderdale neighborhoods and waterways have been happening throughout the months of December 2019 and January 2020. In December alone, there were six raw sewer main breaks ranging from all over the city spewing a total of 126.9 million gallons of sewage in December alone. In mid-January, there were also more breaks. The total amount of waste spilled is a gut-wrenching amount of 211 million gallons, enough to fill 320 Olympic sized swimming pools. It is the largest spill in Florida history.

These sewage breaks cannot continue happening. Sewage flooding into streets and waterways is a severe health risk as it can cause sickness. Take the case of John Tedder where on Christmas Day of 2019 he was fishing for bait in the New River. After he got his bait, went home, and settled into bed he started to feel sick. The next morning Tedder’s left leg was swollen and infected all the way up to his kneecap. He drove himself to the hospital where they told him the raw sewage contamination was what had infected it. The sewage spills also bring the destruction of habitats and just general wellbeing. Backyards have been invaded by the reeking smell of raw sewage, and residents are having to boil their drinking and showering water. People should expect higher standards living in the Yachting Capital of the World.

Why are the pipes breaking? And why are they all breaking at once? It’s simple; old pipes. The pipes are becoming over 50 years old and are finally succumbing to the pressure. Another problem is, Ft. Lauderdale has grown significantly in population and buildings in 50 years. The increased usage of sewage lines can cause pressure making them break.

Unfortunately, there was no immediate notice that the pipes needed to be changed. Pipes should be replaced every 40-50 years because the material in them starts to corrode causing them to break and in this case, the massive increase in population, 83,648 people in 1960 (when the pipes would have last been put in) to 182,595 in 2019, could have also had an effect.

The city also pumps the sewage straight into the water. The Tarpon River had almost 70 million gallons of sewage poured into it contaminating its waters. The George English lake was also a victim. Hundreds of dead fish, crabs, and oysters have been washing up. It’s gotten so bad that there have been crews there picking up the dead sea life.

The state of Florida is fining the city of Ft. Lauderdale $1.8 million for the series of 11 spills since December in an effort to pressure them into stopping the spills from happening. The city of Ft. Lauderdale should be learning from Miami. They have an astonishing 300,000 more people than there are in Ft. Lauderdale yet Miami does not have consistent sewer main breaks.The city and state need to bring efforts together to make sure spills on this magnitude never happen again.