BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Millions of gallons of sewage spilled into the Intracoastal Waterway after a pipe broke earlier this week in Boynton Beach, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
On Thursday night, the city said the pipe was successfully bypassed.
Officials said a 20-inch sanitary sewer force main broke Monday at 625 E. Boynton Beach Blvd. inside a stormwater conflict structure.
The city contracted a local company called Clean Harbors to assist with the repair along with commercial divers.
In a news release, spokeswoman Chelsea Sanabia said at approximately 6 p.m. the Utilities Department successfully bypassed the pipe break, terminating the sewage leak into the Intracoastal Waterway.
"The city will continue to clean up the waterway, work on necessary repairs and replacing the pipe," Sanabia said. "The water in the Intracoastal will continue to be tested and the public will be notified once the water is deemed safe."
FDEP said crews set up booms Monday to contain the leak and divers started working to put repair clamps to repair the break.
Divers were able to put a repair clamp on, however, they could not tighten the clamp due to the back pressure and flow. Officials said they were fighting against the back pressure and tidal influence all the time.
After multiple attempts by two divers for more than 10 hours, crews had to call off the repair efforts as the repair clamp was getting damaged due to the pressure.
Staff met up to look for other options to repair the pipe on Monday night and realized that for them to stop the pressure at the break, they would have to put a line stop and set up a bypass as the station can only be down for 1.5 hours before the wet well would overflow.
FDEP said crews began talking Monday night and Tuesday to contractors and looking for parts for repairing the pipe. This was despite most contractors not having crews available to work on the Fourth of July holiday.
In addition, they contacted neighboring municipalities, contractors, consultants and distributors to gather all the parts and materials that would be needed to make the repair.
Divers once again failed Wednesday in an attempt to install a 20-inch repair clamp.
"We have divers in there. There's a small structure, very narrow and for somebody to go in there, half the time its underwater and there is back pressure feeding the pipe, tidal influences," Boynton Beach Utilities Director Poonam Kalkat said. "It makes it a very hard place to fix it."
The estimated amount of spill is 4 million gallons per day with a total of 12 million gallons.
FDEP said Clean Harbors will be collecting the spill material, and workers will start sampling as soon as the spill is stopped.
"This has nothing to do with drinking water. Drinking water is safe," Kalkat said. "The spill is contained in the Intracoastal, and yes it's an environmental impact, but we don't want people to be impacted, so this is at least contained in an area we can control and work on and clean up."
The broken pipe is about 50 years old and saltwater underground deteriorated the pipe, according to officials.