Over the last two and a half months, more than 206 million gallons of toxic sewage has spilled into Fort Lauderdale waterways. That’s the equivalent of 312 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
And now, the state of Florida is saying enough is enough.
It has slapped Fort Lauderdale with a $1.8 million fine that the city is expected to pay by March 31, according to a letter sent to the city and obtained by CNN.
The issue first began in December 2019. Since then, the city’s aging sewer pipes broke and discharged raw sewage seven times into multiple neighborhoods and tourist destinations.
The most recent spill was on January 30 when millions of gallons of sewage began spouting out of the pipes buried under Fort Lauderdale’s George English Park, home to the city’s famed George English Lake.
“All the fish are dead there,” Fort Lauderdale fisherman Jeff Maggio told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“Everything’s just gone. Crabs, oysters, barnacles and plankton. Crews have been out there picking up hundreds of fish out of the water so it doesn’t look like holy hell. Manatees are swimming in that poison.”
An investment that’s long overdue
Fort Lauderdale’s sewer main system is 50 years old.
The city is investing $600 million to upgrade the system. But, says Mayor Dean Trantalis, the project will take 18 months.
Along with millions of dollars in upgrades, however, the city now also owes the state $1,796,500. Trantalis told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he doesn’t know where the city is going to get the money from.
“We have made infrastructure our top priority and currently have numerous major projects underway to immediately replace the most critical sewer pipes,” the City of Fort Lauderdale said in a statement to CNN.
“We recognize the importance of investing today to ensure that future generations can continue to live, work, and vacation in our City.”
CNN’s Denise Royal and Rosa Flores contributed to this report.