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Crews stop sewage flow from ruptured pipeline near Lake Worth Beach

36-inch line was damaged when a contractor working with AT&T hit the sewer line
Posted at 5:57 PM, Apr 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-13 18:16:17-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The Lake Worth Utility District on Saturday successfully stopped that flow of millions of gallons of wastewater, four days after the sewer line ruptured.

A 36-inch line was damaged Tuesday night when a contractor working with AT&T hit the sewer line near Florida Mango Road between Waterside Drive and the L-10 Canal. An estimated 3 million to 5 million gallons dispersed.

"However, thanks to the swift and coordinated response efforts of the city of Lake Worth Beach Utilities and several local municipalities and adjacent utility companies, we were able to contain and transport the discharged wastewater, mitigating further environmental impact," Sam Heady, the district's utility director, wrote in an email to WPTV.


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Heady noted they are in a cleanup phase.

"Last night's and this morning's operational efforts marked a crucial milestone in this challenging endeavor, as the leak has been effectively stopped," Heady wrote. "Now, our focus shifts to the vital clean-up efforts in the affected canals and lakes."

Crews used vacuum trucks to remove contamination from the affected canals and aerators to add oxygen back to the water and reduce odors. Crews installed a bypass around the site of the leak so that sewage can move freely.

Booms were placed both up and downstream from the break to aid in the temporary containment of the spilled wastewater, which is being pumped out and recovered into the wastewater treatment system.

"I want to express my deepest appreciation for the exemplary dedication and tireless commitment demonstrated by our Utility staff and all involved parties throughout this emergency response," Heady said. "Their unwavering resolve and collective efforts have been nothing short of phenomenal. In just three days, we have accomplished what would typically require over a two weeks’ worth of work."

He noted there was a "long week of 24-hour workdays, culminating in a nerve-racking final 12 hours. However, amidst the challenges, the resilience and professionalism displayed by our team have been truly commendable."

Earlier this week, Palm Beach County spokesman John Jamason said Florida Mango Road would be closed between Waterside Drive and Garden Road before Tuesday.

Drinking water is safe.

Staff from the Department of Environmental Protect and the Florida Department of Health have been onsite to provide technical assistance and oversee response activities.  

On Wednesday night, the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County issued a health alert, no swim advisory and no irrigation to residents and visitors in the area. Drinking water is not affected.

Water sampling efforts are being conducted.

The affected areas are Lake Clarke and Lake Clarke Shores, L-10 canal, L-9 canal, Grassy Saw Lake, Lake Osborne, C-51/West Palm Beach canal, the canal between Waterway Drive and West Lake Drive, the canal between West Lake Drive and Pine Tree Lane, Keller canal, other nearby surface water bodies connected to those water bodies.

"Anyone who comes into contact with the water in this area should wash thoroughly, especially before eating or drinking," spokesman Alex Shaw said in a news release. "Children and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to disease, so every precaution should be taken if needed."

"Protecting Florida's environment and the health and safety of our residents and visitors is DEP's top priority, DEP spokesman Jon Moore wrote to WPTV on Saturday. "Once first response efforts are complete, DEP will conduct its regulatory review. "
In the area in February, about 336,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was released into a waterway after a 16-inch force main break in Palm Springs.