Sewage spill turns Fort Lauderdale street into ‘lazy river of toilet paper and poop’

Brooke Baitinger, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·3 min read

Fort Lauderdale’s failing sewer system struck again overnight on Sunday and into Monday morning, sending more than 1,000 gallons of raw sewage spewing down a residential street, according to a public notice.

A 12-inch force main ruptured at Northeast 32nd Avenue and Northeast 25th Street just before 8 p.m. Sunday, according to the public notice by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. Crews stopped the spill Monday at 8:30 a.m., the notice says.

By then, more than a thousand gallons of sewage had seeped over residential streets and into a storm drain that discharges into the Tarpon Bay Canal and the Intercoastal Waterway, the notice says.

Fort Lauderdale issued a waterway advisory for the affected portion of Tarpon Bay Canal and the Intercoastal at 10:30 a.m. as a city contractor worked to repair the break and clean up the streets.

The city warned against water-related recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing. Residents with questions can contact the 24-hour Customer Service Center at 954-828-8000, the notice said.

Fort Lauderdale residents in neighborhoods from Rio Vista to Coral Ridge haven’t felt the effects of the record sewer line breaks from 2019 recently.

And residents in this neighborhood have never noticed a break before, according to Bradley Thornbrough.

Thornbrough lives off Northeast 32nd Avenue in the neighborhood between Shooters Waterfront and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. He took photos of the sewage flowing down the street outside his home Sunday night.

“There was a lazy river of toilet paper and poop floating down the street,” Thornbrough said. “And this morning there was actually a sandbar made out of semi-dissolved toilet paper.”

He was shocked because his neighborhood in East Fort Lauderdale hadn’t experienced a spill yet, he said.

By 5 p.m., they had most of it cleaned up. But there was still sewage silt everywhere, and the smell was “horrific,” he said.

“The crazy thing is that the city has not put a single warning sign up,” he said. “People are just driving through it, and maybe walking through it. Nobody knocked on our door or called to alert us to the potential biohazard.”

He praised the city workers who were there to clean up the mess, but also said he noticed vacuum trucks in his neighborhood all last week. “So they must have known something was wrong,” he said.

“But you would think that the city would have this sewer pipe breakage routine down to a science by now,” he said. “They must have some sort of procedure to block off a street and warn homeowners that the water bubbling up in their yard is not water but is in fact their neighbor’s crap.”

Fort Lauderdale city officials did not immediately provide information about the trucks in the neighborhood last week.

Brooke Baitinger can be reached at: bbaitinger@sunsentinel.com, 954-422-0857 or Twitter: @bybbaitinger