Miami Beach water woes cause headaches, continue Thursday

South Florida seafarers remain landlocked after a pipeline leaked sewage into coastal waters.

Area residents started complaining about a bad smell on Tuesday afternoon. Public works officials discovered a leak in a city-owned line along a canal near the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The city issued a “precautionary” advisory urging people to “limit contact” with water at the Collins Canal and Indian Creek along the western shoreline from Government Cut to the 79th Street Causeway. On Thursday afternoon the advisory was lifted from Biscayne Bay.

The advisory was still in effect Thursday morning after city workers scrambled to fix the leak and clean up the contaminated waters.

The potential health threat left many stranded out of the waters on Wednesday.

At Miami Yacht Club on Watson Island, about 40 students spent the day learning sailing techniques and swimming in the club pool instead of venturing out on the bay, said Florencia Darletta, program director.

“A lot of kids went home,” Darletta said. “I’m sure we’ll get complaints from parents.”

Most days, campers sail around Star Island, Monument Island and just north of the Venetian Causeway – areas potentially contaminated. The situation was particularly frustrating because Wednesday's weather was picture perfect for outdoor water sports, she said.

Other water sport businesses in the area shut down for most of Wednesday. Jonathan Siovan, manager at Jet Ski Tours Miami, said he stayed clear of the area due to the advisory. At The Standard Spa, management decided not to rent stand-up paddle boards until the coast is clear.

Not all businesses got word of the advisory, however.

“We heard nothing about it,” said George Say, owner of a business that offers kite boarding and surfing lessons.

Luckily, he said he wasn’t planning on giving lessons, because there wasn’t enough wind.

Still, he said, he would have liked to have been notified of the spill.

“I’d love to know public information that affects me,” he said.

The city did everything it could to get the word out about the spill, said spokeswoman Maria Palacios. It contacted local marinas, posted the advisory on social media sites and activated its reverse 911 call system which notified about 900 Miami Beach residents.

“We tried as much as possible,” Palacios said.

On Wednesday morning, the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management, Department of Health jointly launched an environmental cleanup effort with Miami Beach.

The cleanup efforts are conducted from a barge and include skimming the surface to pick up floating debris.

The agencies will continue the cleanup efforts on Thursday and the county health department will test water samples to ensure the contamination is gone before the advisory is lifted, Palacios said.

The broken wastewater pipe has been patched and the city is still investigating the cause of the leak.

The spill hasn’t caused any service issues to either residential or commercial customers, Palacios said.

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