Swimmers: Sewage Spill Warning Mucked Up | NBC 6 South Florida

Swimmers: Sewage Spill Warning Mucked Up

Miami-Dade authorities criticized for not getting info to people in the water

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    Swimmers: Sewage Spill Warning Mucked Up
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    MIAMI BEACH, FL - JULY 25: Sandra Ramos and her dog, Buckfey, play in the surf as the sun rises over the beach July 25, 2007 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    Repairs continue on the 72-inch broken sewage pipe in Miami Gardens that sent 20 million gallons of raw sewage all the way to the Intracoastal Waterway over the weekend.

     The good news?
     
    Tuesday, beaches at Oleta State Park were given the all clear, along with Haulover and Bal Harbour Monday, meaning swimmers are free to go back in the water there.
     
    But questions remain over whether authorities did enough to notify people who were already on the beach and in the water.
     
    If there'd been so much effort to get the word out about the 20 million gallons of raw sewage dumped into that water, why did almost no one know?
     
    “Outraged,” is how Mike Gibaldo of The Surfrider Foundation, a national group focused on clean oceans, expressed his reaction. “I was out on the beach Saturday and Sunday and I think I heard a rumor about it Saturday afternoon and a little more on Sunday."
     
    But he says he was never told definitively that raw sewage may have been in the water. Gibaldo echoed similar concerns from other local environmental groups.

    ”We're doing due diligence,” said Adriana Lamar, a spokesperson with Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer, one of three county agencies involved in the sewage incident. Lamar said her agency put up more than 300 pink signs announcing danger in three languages, many along the canal at the break site, and notified park management so other signs could go up near park entrances.
     
    “I'm confident we did what we needed to do," she said. "We got the word out via public advisories, we put up signs, we advised certain management within the parks departments at Oleta and Haulover. So I'm confident that we did the outreach that we needed to do to get the word out."
     
    So, why, then, did so few people know?
     
    It could be that no one was told to walk the beaches and tell people already in the water, or tell those who missed the unobtrusive signs or were never told verbally as they entered the park. TV newscasts didn't air until many hours later, and who uses a TV or laptop at the beach? The newspaper didn’t hit until the next morning.
     
    Even the Miami-Dade County Health Department's own website had only a tiny, two-word notice on a link that says “Public Advisory.”
     
    Lianet Garcia, a beachgoer at Haulover on the weekend, said there were kids in the water and that parents “should have been told.”
     
    Of the three county agencies involved, the Health Department is the lead. Yet they have not returned calls from NBC Miami this week seeking information.

    Tonight, NBC Miami has learned from an informed county source that early test results now show sewage may’ve never reached the beaches in the first place. That's more good news, but does little to explain why beachgoers didn't know about the spill.