Miami-Dade County has closed several popular North Dade recreational areas after a sewer line burst Sunday night on Island Boulevard in Aventura, sending a quarter-million gallons of raw sewage into storm drains.
County officials who have already determined the sewage made contact with surface waters, closed to the public a beach at Oleta State Park, Dumfoundling Bay, Maule Lake, and part of the Intracoastal Waterway between Haulover Beach and the William Lehman Causeway.
Before reopening the popular boating and swimming areas to the public, the county’s health department and the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources must show that two consecutive daily tests of those waters are below contamination levels considered dangerous to the public.
The first test at Oleta on Monday passed, said Samir Elmir, who directs the county’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. Results of a second test taken Tuesday won’t be ready until Wednesday, Elmir said.
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“Oleta State Park met the standard,” said Elmir, whose department is in charge of testing on public beaches.
The other sites will undergo testing by the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources.
Water and sewer department spokeswoman Jennifer Messemer said results weren’t yet available for sites other than Oleta. She said there will be no changes to the boundaries that have been closed until Wednesday at the earliest.
Messemer said the latest spill was contained by Sunday night and by Monday the ruptured 18-inch main and roadways the water had damaged, had been repaired. She called the closings, “precautionary.”
“It was in the street. Sewage made its way into a storm drain. We were then able to determine it made contact with surface water,” she said.
The spill is just the latest in a series that have plagued Miami-Dade the past three years. Earlier this year the county agreed in principle to a negotiated settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice that calls for $1.6 billion in repairs to rusted pipes and faulty water treatment plants over the next decade. To help pay for the bonds the county was forced to increase water rates to the public.
The federal agencies contend the county has not abided by the federal Clean Water Act. Since 2010, the county’s decrepit sewer lines have ruptured more than 65 times, spilling close to 50 million gallons of raw sewage into waterways and streets.
In all, the county plans on spending upwards of $12 billion over the next 15 years to fix its problems.