Lauderdale hires group to monitor canal water quality

FORT LAUDERDALE — Residents concerned about the city’s questionable water quality after record-breaking sewage spills in early 2020 will soon be able to check the safety status of local waterways online.

The city has hired nonprofit group Miami Waterkeeper to test several key sites in Fort Lauderdale every week and post its findings to the site,, according to a report by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Testing for fecal bacteria levels could begin in November. Sites include: Annie Beck Park (sampled at the waterway stairs); Coontie Hatchee Park (sampled from south fork of the New River); Himmarshee Canal (sampled at Las Olas Boulevard); Lake Sylvia (sampled from the parking area at the end of Harbor Beach Parkway); Middle River (sampled at George English Park kayak launch); Royal Palm Drive (sampled at Las Olas Boulevard); the Sand Bar (sampled from SE 10th Street); Sunrise Bay (sampled from Birch State Park); Sweeting Park (North Fork of the New River), and Tarpon River (sampled at the SE Ninth Avenue Bridge or from an alternative sampling location at South Rio Vista Boulevard).

Such widespread testing is a first for Fort Lauderdale, which boasts 165 miles of navigable waterways. Six main sewage spills that occurred from December of last year to February 2020 spewed 211.6 million gallons of sewage in neighborhoods from Rio Vista and Victoria Park north to Coral Ridge.

Much of the muck has settled in Tarpon River after sewage was diverted there to keep it from invading homes in Rio Vista. The accidents are blamed on an aging sewage infrastructure that has since been undergoing repairs.

Sewage carries pathogens that can sicken both the people and pets who come in contact with it. Many residents have complained to city officials in recent months that they’ve come down with illnesses they say they caught from paddling, fishing or canoeing in infected local waterways.

It’s a troubling dilemma for a region that promotes its strong boating and fishing image and amenities.

Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale will spend millions dredging the Himmarshee Canal, Tarpon River and George English Lake in a three-phase project ordered by the state. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection fined the city $2.1 million for the spills.

To avoid the precedent-setting fine, Fort Lauderdale has agreed to spend $3.2 million on environmental projects in a deal reached with the state in early October.