Environmental

Miami-Dade Documents Its Rankest Contractor-Involved Sewage Spills, and Who Will Foot the Bill

Miami-Dade County recently released a report identifying the construction companies involved in recent sewage spills.
Miami-Dade County recently released a report identifying the construction companies involved in recent sewage spills. Photo by Julienne Gage
Last year, hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage spilled across Miami-Dade County after contractors accidentally broke sewer mains and other sewage system components, according to a recent county report.

Covering a period from January 2021 to March 2022, the report lays out the worst contractor-involved sewage leaks in Miami-Dade, and who the county is billing for the damage. The report describes incidents involving botched drilling operations, excavation projects-gone-wrong, and other underground construction work that ended with sewage pouring into streets or waterways.

Underground construction accidents are not uncommon around the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department's intricate network of pipes, which, if stretched end-to-end, would span more than 4,000 miles, according to the department.

The environmental consequences of heavy sewage leaks range from groundwater contamination to pollution of Biscayne Bay with harmful nutrients. Chronic and large-scale leaks and runoff have also been blamed for algal blooms and fish and seagrass die-offs.

Over the past several years, tens of millions of gallons of sewage have leaked into Miami-Dade and Broward County waterways, spawning grave environmental concerns. Recently, Hurricane Ian overloaded sewer infrastructure and caused multiple sewage leaks into the Miami River, Biscayne Bay, and the waters of Virginia Key. 

While some leaks have been caused by aging sewage infrastructure and tropical storms or hurricanes, the new report shows that major sewage discharges have also arisen from alleged construction mishaps, including a spill of more than 300,000 gallons of fetid sewage in May 2021. 

Under a resolution adopted in September, the county will issue six-month reports on contractor-involved damage to county sewer pipes "in an effort to establish an effective tool for tracking and transparency, as well as to serve as a deterrent to contractors," the county says.

Based on the report, here is a list of some of the worst contractor-involved sewage spills that recently afflicted the Miami area.

Downtown Stankin'

On May 7, 2021, work done by Florida Communication Concepts, Inc. near Miami's Bayfront Park caused 308,893 gallons of wastewater to spill into and around the Intracoastal Waterway after directional drilling damaged a 60-inch sewer main, according to the county report.

The spill lasted more than five hours, and raw sewage spread out a half-mile into Miami's waters, according to county records.

A no-swim advisory remained in effect in the area for seven days. The damage was estimated to cost $32,967, for which an invoice was sent to Florida Communication Concepts.

Pinecrest Poo Fest

On August 12, 2021, more than 98,000 gallons of sewage spilled out at Southwest 132nd Street near Pinecrest in south Miami-Dade after an earth auger struck a sewer main. The spill lasted two hours and 55 minutes, causing an estimated $24,851 in damage.

The county has blamed the spill on lawn maintenance company Lawn Pro, which has disputed the charges, county records state. (The company did not respond to New Times' request for comment via email).

Stench on South Dixie

On June 16, 2021, while doing work in Palmetto Bay on South Dixie Highway, oil and natural gas company Alvi Tech caused a spill of 22,709 gallons of wastewater, according to the county report. The spill stopped after an hour and 51 minutes and did not impact any bodies of water, according to the county.

The damage was estimated at $8,550 and an invoice was sent to the contractor.

11,000-Gallon Surprise

On January 28, 2021, the county report states, sewer pipe damage caused by Continental Construction Company in Miami Gardens led to an 11,960-gallon wastewater spill. According to the report, the spill lasted 90 minutes.

The county identified no impact to bodies of water and billed Continental for the estimated $8,644 in damage.

Move Over Mount Trashmore

On December 20, 2021, a project by construction company Maggolc damaged sewer pipes off Northwest 79th Avenue in Doral and led to a 9,207-gallon wastewater spill, according to the report.

The spill lasted an hour and ten minutes and did not impact any bodies of water, the county says. The county's  internal cost evaluation of the accident is still pending.

Mario Gonzalez, who runs Maggolc, tells New Times that although a utilities map he was given for the project showed an abandoned underground tube, the piping was in fact active. While he acknowledges that Maggolc broke the piping while digging, he maintains his company was carrying out its work carefully.

A few days ago, Gonzalez says, the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department sent him a letter advising that an invoice was on the way for the damage.

“We are not only the contractors responsible for everything that happens in this world,” he wrote in an email to New Times in Spanish, which has been translated to English. “There is much to improve on all sides.”

Muddy Waters

On March 2, 2022, work done by the company Future Inc. caused 4,928 gallons of wastewater to spill into a retention pond near Miami International Airport between State Road 828 and Flagler Street, the report states.

The incident is undergoing an internal cost validation.
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Alex DeLuca is a staff writer at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca

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