Miami-Dade County criticized for insufficient pipe-break notification: Municipalities affected by busted a sewage pipeline say that notification of the break came in too late.
Jul 13, 2010 (The Miami Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- When a 72-inch pipe burst last month and spewed an estimated 20 million gallons of sewage into Biscayne Bay, city officials in some municipalities that were affected say Miami-Dade County did little to notify them.
While park rangers posted warning signs along the Biscayne canal and Oleta River State Park, and lifeguards warned beachgoers of the swim advisory in Bal Harbour Beach and Haulover Park, officials from several cities whose borders faced the bay or had canals affected by the raw sewage say they were clueless.
"We couldn't provide our residents with information because we didn't have any ourselves," said Miami Gardens City Manager Danny Crew, who didn't know the broken sewer pipe was located in his city. Crew said he heard about the spill's location from media reports, but didn't realize Miami Gardens canals were emanating a foul stench until two days later -- again from media reports.
"As part of our response protocol when a pipe failure occurs, the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department coordinates with the affected municipalities," Adriana Lamar, a spokeswoman for the department, wrote in a statement.
She did not provide specifics about when the county contacted municipal governments after the spill was detected.
While North Miami confirmed that Miami-Dade did contact the city's utility department shortly after the spill, city spokeswoman Pam Solomon said overall the city's management was left in the dark.
"Typically there's a better warning system, that seems to not have taken place," said Solomon, who said the city department was notified because the county needed access to a water main.
Following public criticism in the days after the spill that the county did not do enough to get the word out to residents, Miami-Dade County spokeswoman Marie Bertot said updates like swim advisories now be included on the county's alert program, which sends text alerts to cellphones.
"In the future, it'll be easier to stay up to date on a situation like this for residents and municipalities," Bertot said.
Officials in the affected municipalities maintain there should have been better a better communication system in place from the beginning.
" I would have liked to have been notified so we could have done some notification for our residents," said, Tom Benton, Miami Shores Village manager.
Officials from Biscayne Park said the village received a late notification.
The village sent out updates via e-mail to residents, who were advised to not swim, fish or get in contact with the contaminated water.
Village Manager Ana Garcia said she complained to the county after residents reported dead fish in canals.
"We don't know why the county failed to communicate with us," she said.
To receive text alerts to cellphones or other mobile devices about significant emergency events, you and sign up for Miami-Dade Alerts visit www.miamidade.gov.
Miami Herald writer Pamela Duque contributed to this report.
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