Aluminum air pipes

Fort Lauderdale trapped by bursting pipes and boil water orders

Fort Lauderdale – Living in downtown Fort Lauderdale has been a little less glamorous for Ron Castille and hundreds of neighbors since a water main near Las Olas burst nearly two weeks ago, contaminating the drinking water with a higher bacteria load.

A three-block section from the Federal Highway west to Third Avenue southeast and Las Olas Boulevard south to the New River is subject to an ordinance. water has been boiling since January 27, the day after the underground pipe burst.

Castile, a retired Pennsylvania chief justice who now lives in Las Olas Grand, expressed his displeasure in a snippy email to Mayor Dean Trantalis.

“It is an absolute disgrace that the heart of this city cannot restore clean water service after an emergency,” he wrote. “We taxpayers pay an ad valorem tax for this service and we can’t even brush our teeth with tap water. This tax is supposed to pay for water and sewer maintenance. Your administration makes this beautiful city look like a third world country. Ashamed.”

Fort Lauderdale plans to spend $600 million over the next few years to repair and replace the city’s aging underground water and sewer network. The total tally will amount to at least $1.4 billion over the next 20 years, experts predict.

But for now, some of these fragile old pipes remain in place, harming city workers and residents when they break. Some pipes are metal. Others are made of cast iron or clay.

In the past two weeks, Fort Lauderdale has issued six boil water orders. The other orders have been lifted, but the 450 East Las Olas order remains in effect.

And there’s no way of knowing when it might end, says public works director Alan Dodd.

‘I wouldn’t say it’s a record,’ he said of the boil water order impacting hundreds of apartments and condos in the downtown core in growing Fort Lauderdale. “It’s a lot longer than most of them.”

The precautionary boil water advisory will remain in effect until testing results pass for two consecutive days.

“We test every day,” Dodd said. “We need two successful tests in a row. We opened more hydrants to flush out the system, but that was unsuccessful at this point. »

So far, tests show high levels of bacteria in the water. A test taken on Sunday failed.

City officials run tests daily, but results don’t come in until the next day, Dodd said.

As for why the pipes are breaking, the cold might have something to do with it, Dodd said.

“I’m not sure exactly what caused the rupture, but we’ve noticed an increase in ruptures during cold temperatures over the past two weeks,” he said. “We had many breaks during the cold weather. This usually happens because the pipes are brittle and getting old. »

About 1,500 residents were affected by the broken downtown line.

The boil water advisory is in place at Las Olas Grand, the WaterGarden condos, the Icon luxury apartment tower as well as businesses, restaurants and places like Starbucks, which would have closed after entering of the boil water order.

Commissioner Ben Sorensen, who represents the neighborhood, says he has heard complaints from many residents.

“They’re frustrated and want to know when this is going to end,” he said. “I’m sorry it took so long. We are doing everything we can to end the boil water advisory.

Here’s why people are up in arms: When a city issues a precautionary boil water order, all water used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth or washing dishes must be boiled for at least one minute.

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Stan Eichelbaum, another Las Olas Grand resident, says people have lost patience waiting for this to end.

“It’s nonsense,” Eichelbaum said. “We have no idea what is going on. We have no idea what caused it. They won’t tell anyone. And they don’t know when it will be fixed.

Instead of boiling water, Eichelbaum says he and his wife use bottled water for cooking and brushing their teeth. But he looks forward to the day when tap water is clean.

Sorensen urges residents to be patient and says the city is doing everything possible to speed things up.

“If we have more failed tests, we’ll talk to the state to see if there are other treatments for the system that we can follow,” he said. “We are also looking at upcoming processes to see how we can expedite the end of boil water orders. Are there other ways to make sure our water is safe to drink? »

Neighbors with questions can call the city’s 24-hour Neighbor Service Center at 954-828-8000.

Susannah Bryan can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan