Miami-Dade County

Sewage spill fouls wetlands and Biscayne Bay

Swimmer are being advised to stay clear of water in Oleta River State Park after a sewage spilled dumped between 1.2 and 1.6 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into adjacent wetlands and Biscayne Bay. An earlier warning for the park’s beach and the bay has been lifted.
Swimmer are being advised to stay clear of water in Oleta River State Park after a sewage spilled dumped between 1.2 and 1.6 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into adjacent wetlands and Biscayne Bay. An earlier warning for the park’s beach and the bay has been lifted. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

About 800,000 gallons of partially treated sewage fouled Biscayne Bay this week after heavy rain overwhelmed a North Miami-Dade County pump station, county officials said.

Swimmers are being warned to stay out of the water at Oleta River State Park after health and environmental workers found the water too dirty for safe swimming. Water must test clean for at least two days before swimmers can return, said county water and sewer department spokeswoman Adriana Lamar.

The spill happened early Tuesday at the North District Wastewater Treatment Plant in the 2500 block of Northeast 156th Street, Lamar said. The partially treated sewage was being pumped into an injection well thousands of feet deep. The pumps typically slow overnight when sewer use drops. But a heavy downpour overwhelmed the pumps, sending about 800,000 gallons of treated sewage into adjacent wetlands and the bay.

Lamar said the county’s aging water and sewer system, the largest in the southeastern United States, was not a factor in the spill, but rather weather.

“This is just a rain event,” she said.

The system is in the midst of the costliest upgrade in county history, expected to cost $12.6billion over the next two decades, according to county documents.

The water and sewer department notified the Department of Health, which tested the water. Swimmers should stay clear of water in the park south of Northeast 163rd Street and north of 151st Street. An earlier swimming ban for the bay and beach area at the park was lifted Thursday, Lamar said.

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