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Raw Sewage Spills Through Pipeline Break in South Florida; Half of Flow Now Diverted

Aired June 21, 2000 - 2:08 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's not the kind of sunny advertisement the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce wants to hear: Tourists, stay out of the water. Long stretches of Miami Beach are closed today after a construction crew punctured a sewage main.

CNN's Pat Neal is surfside in Miami Beach, not going near the water. She tell you why -- Pat.

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Natalie, you can get near the water, just not in it. And actually, authorities have just told us they are now planning to expand that beach advisory a little farther north to cover about 21 miles of shoreline in the South Florida area. They would extend that limit up to the Aventura, Florida area, which is just north of Miami beach and Bal Harbour.

Also, authorities have just told us, that they are now diverting some of the raw sewage through an old pipeline, a pipeline that hadn't been used in more than 30 years, but they are now able to divert some of that raw sewage through there.

Despite the many signs that have gone up along the beaches warning people about getting in the water, a lot of people have still gotten in it, and played in the water. And, as authorities have said, this can cause some health problems, including gastral problems and headaches and ear infections.

Yesterday, as you mentioned, a contractor, who was working on a nearby marina, accidentally drove a piling into the pipeline.

Now with us now is Samir Elmir, who is with the Florida Department of Health.

Now, Samir, tell us, why did you feel the need to expand the area here?

SAMIR ELMIR, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Basically because today, around noontime, at 12:00. the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Utility Department in Miami-Dade County, they were able to divert almost half of the volume of the flow into an old, old outflow that extends about two miles into the Atlantic Ocean, about five miles north of where the break is taking place. They call it 71st Street on Miami Beach.

NEAL: Now, what is being done to actually cap the break and when will that be fixed?

ELMIR: Well, the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer, they hired their own contractors to make sure that they dive into that location, they locate the break, they evaluate the condition of the break, and basically to fix it.

But the latest information I get from them, the earliest that the break would be fixed will be this weekend, on a Friday.

NEAL: And still, we still have raw sewage, though, flowing into Biscayne Bay and out into the Atlantic Ocean, then, even though you are diverting some it.

ELMIR: They were able to divert half of the volume starting at noon today. but half of it is still, approximately around half of that volume still being discharged at the location of the break.

NEAL: Thank you.

We'll continue to keep you posted on this. And as you heard now, they are going to expand that warning for about 21 miles, and it's not good news for people who want to come down for a vacation here. They can go close to the water, just not in.

Pat Neal, CNN, reporting live from Miami Beach.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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