Tropical disturbance that produced almost a foot of rain in South Florida caused sewage overflows, prompting officials to issue non-swimming advice along some popular beaches.
Miami-Dade County said Saturday that very high flooding due to flooding and high groundwater levels caused sewer runoff to flow through the central part of the county.
As a result, a non-swimming notice was issued for several coastal communities including South Beach and Virginia Key Beach until further notice.
“This has been a capacity problem since so much rain is so short-lived,” Jennifer Messemer with the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer (WASD) said.
The district’s water treatment plant is eligible for an average annual daily flow of 143 million gallons of sewage and has reported continuous flows of more than 310 million gallons of sewage and rainwater on Saturday.
Messemer says nearly a foot of water has led to sewage overflow from the facility.
The district said the untreated water has the potential to mix with floodwaters and flow into nearby waterways.
“We are working hard to monitor our water quality and ensure public safety while mitigating issues related to the extremely heavy rainfall received during this severe weather event,” WASD director Roy Coley said in a statement.
The Florida Department of Health will collect samples over several days to determine if the water is safe for recreational use.
Non-swimming tips are expected to remain valid until the agency receives two consecutive days of normal readings.
Miami-Dade County is no stranger to sewer backup and Environment Florida says the area has a history of sewer system failures.
“In 2016, a study of a recent flood of the royal tide pumped to Biscayne Bay revealed that leaks from sewer pipes are spreading over Miami Beach,” the organization writes. “And in 2012, federal authorities forced Miami-Dade County to review its sewer system after it burst more than 65 times in two years.”
Sewage problems are widespread throughout the state and usually become apparent during a tropical problem.
During Hurricane Irma in 2017, it is estimated that more than 28 million gallons of sewage were dumped into waterways, neighborhoods and areas that should not see pollution.
Environment Florida said this is equivalent to every person in the city of Miami flowing their toilet 38 times.
Although this tropical storm was not a hurricane or even a tropical storm, the almost foot of rain was enough to cause major problems.
Messemer said the county is working to improve the sewer system, so such things are not happening again.
“The county is working on a multi-billion dollar capital improvement program to improve and enhance the water and sewer infrastructure,” Messemer stated.
Miami-Dade Water and Sewer has entered into a federally required compromise to improve sewage collection and treatment to the tune of $ 1.6 billion over the next several years.
The program will make upgrades to the sanitation sewer system, pumping stations and other important infrastructure in the hope that scenes of sewage flowing into communities will become a view of the past.