Flood control gates were shut along the Biscayne Canal last Saturday afternoon, the day after a sewage leak last weekend, preventing much of the 20 million gallons of raw sewage from escaping into popular Biscayne Bay.
But Miami-Dade County environmental resource managers withdrew the request midday Tuesday, allowing those gates to re-open and the flow of raw sewage to resume.
A Department of Environmental Resource Management spokesperson said they had little choice. The five miles of canal water was too massive to filter or to chemically treat, especially with rainstorms on the way. And the thousands of people who live along the tainted waterway are exposed to some risk as long as the sewage remained there.
"It's just terrible,” said homeowner Joyce Rayme, who lives along Biscayne Canal, also known as the C-8 canal. "I would really like to get it out of here, rather than just a stop gap measure. We have to do this (release the sewage). It's not fair to dump it on all of us."
It remains unclear how much of the 20 million gallons remains in the canal. DERM says some surely has flowed out into the northern portion of Miami-Dade’s Intracoastal Waterway, tests show. An advisory was reconfigured Wednesday, addressing only the area between the Broad Causeway and the Kennedy Causeway. However, authorities now say sewage never reached popular beaches where advisories were posted as a precaution over the Father’s Day weekend urging people to avoid the water.
The all-important but unassuming floodgates sit amid the 7th hole of the Miami Shores Country Club as golfers play on through, unaware of the sewage snaking past them.
At the site of the pipe break miles to the west in Miami Gardens, no one in nearby homes said they'd been told of the danger in their canal. Pink tri-lingual signs were posted only on the other side of the canal.
To see the meandering canal from the site of the break, is to see the thousands who are affected by the sewage. The tainted water opens into large lake near the Golden Glades interchange and touches lakeside homes. It passes Breezeswept Park, and Griffing Park in north Miami-Dade. It swings southeast through North Miami alongside more homes, whose neighbors say they love the wildlife here but not the mosquitoes or litter.
The canal contains secret fishing spots along Memorial Drive near Biscayne Park. There were dead fish along the way: but officials are unsure what killed them
It’s on to Miami Country Day School, and the Miami Shores Country Club with those important canal flood gates. It eventually flows through million dollar waterfront homes in Miami Shores where it empties into Biscayne Bay. And with it, 20 million gallons of raw sewage.
The three county agencies responding, the Department of Water and Sewer, DERM, and the Health Department insist they did all they could to notify swimmers and others. Yet almost no one knew. Consequently, the Health Department Administrator said there would be a review of the response and likely be the creation of a “unified command center” as we’ve seen in the response to the Gulf Oil Disaster.