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Broken pipe spews sewage, forces Miami beach closings

A pipe ruptured by a tugboat spewed a fountain of untreated sewage into Biscayne Bay, forcing officials to close beaches to swimmers Friday.

The rupture was similar to one last year that shut down Miami's and Miami Beach's beaches for at least nine days just before the Fourth of July holiday.

Beaches closed Friday included those at Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne. Beaches on Miami Beach remained open, even though the spill could be smelled in the tourist hot spot of South Beach.

The 72-inch sewage pipe, buried just under the bed of Biscayne Bay, was hit Thursday evening by the tug Coastal St. Marks, pushing a barge, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Danielle DiMarino.

Between 11-million to 12-million gallons of sewage spewed from the broken pipe before workers could shut off the valves, said Adriana P. Lamar, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County's Water and Sewer Department.

The ruptured pipe carried sewage and storm runoff from the mainland to a wastewater treatment plant on Virginia Key. The flow was diverted to another line.

Health officials hope to reopen the closed beaches Sunday.

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