Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Shopping Center Sewage
Here's four words you don't normally hear together: shopping center and leaking sewage. But that's the case at a Fort Lauderdale facility where investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- There's nothing nice about raw sewage. It's ugly, it stinks and it's full of germs, and for weeks that's just what was leaking behind the Riverland Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Carmel Cafiero: "How long has it been like this?"
Shanna Dye: "Maybe over a month."
Shanna Dye works at a bar in the shopping center, but she has to come out in the alley and walk through the standing sewage to take out the trash.
Shanna Dye: "We run a club here, a bar, and to bring out the garbage is a nightmare."
Carmel Cafiero: "And then you've got to be worried about tracking it back inside, right?"
Shanna Dye: "Absolutely."
The owner of a medical center considers the standing sewage outside her back door a serious health threat.
Carmel Cafiero: "You have sick people?"
Carolina Sassano: "Yes, we do."
Carmel Cafiero: "How disturbing is that?"
Carolina Sassano: "Very, my physicians complain every day."
And it's not just a problem for people doing business here. The sewage leaked out of the alley and onto Davie Boulevard where cars drove through it and people walked through it with no idea where this moisture was coming from. Seven News found all this 24 days after the health department cited the shopping center for untreated or improperly treated waste.
Carmel Cafiero: "So almost a month has passed, and as we sit here today there is still raw sewage on the ground. Is that acceptable?"
Howard Rosen: "Well, the answer is no."
It wasn't until after we showed up that a septic service showed up to remove the standing sewage from the alley. Property manager Olivia Charlton, who put on boots before venturing near the source of the seepage, says the problem was caused by a drain field pipe that was broken when a truck drove across it.
Olivia Charlton: "And it's just a matter of time. We're not ignoring the problem. We have trucks coming out putting sand out. We sanitized the area."
We watched over the next several days as the center worked to clean up the spill. The health department was also watching.
Howard Rosen: "Our responsibility is to try to ensure that disease is not transmitted through the environment. Sewage on the ground is an issue for infectious-- not just infectious-- but viral disease."
Also an issue, sewage seeping into the storm drain.
Howard Rosen: "Well, most of the storm drains run off into a canal, and, obviously, we don't want sewage going into the canals."
Carmel Cafiero: "It is not dangerous when you have raw sewage going into the storm drain?"
Olivia Charlton: "Yes, it is, and we have not ignored this. We have not ignored this problem."
Eventually, the shopping center will connect to a new sewer system, but to stop the leaking, it had to put in a new drain field.
Carmel Cafiero: "Almost a month to the day that the shopping center was cited for the raw sewage it appears the problem has been solved. Both business owners and neighbors hope they have seen the last of the leaks."
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