Last Stand announced on Wednesday that it is strongly opposed to disposal of treated sewage into shallow wells at the as yet unfinished Cudjoe Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.
In letters to DEP, FKAA and each Monroe County Commissioner, the Keyswide environmental group cited state regulations, insufficient treatment and danger to sealife as reasons why the plant should be required to pump its waste 2,500-3,000 feet below the surface into the Boulder Zone.
“DEP requires sewage plants that have the potential to treat one million gallons a day to use deep well disposal,” said Naja Girard, president of Last Stand, a watch-dog group which has operated in the Keys for over 25 years. “Deep wells receive the partially treated waste water and retain it below solid barriers, while shallow wells allow the fresh water to rise to the surface and move into the nearshore waters,” she added.
Florida Administrative Code sets tough maximum standards for nitrogen and phosphorus that “will not be met by the Cudjoe Plant,” Girard stated. “This is a very strict, special rule for Florida Outstanding Waters like the Florida Keys, and FKAA’s published numbers are far above the limits the law imposes,” she said.
Girard said Last Stand will “help any way we can” to encourage County Commissioners to find the $6-$8 million dollars needed for the deep well. “Taxpayers voted to pay an extra one-cent infrastructure sales tax for exactly this kind of expenditure,” she explained, “and now is the time to do it, before the plant even begins to treat sewage.”
Last Stand contends the deep well technology is required, and if the Cudjoe plant is allowed to go into operation sometime in early 2015 using only shallow wells, the cost for a deep well would be even greater when the estimated 10,000 residential units are finally hooked up and the million-gallon-a-day threshold is surpassed.
The letter to DEP asks the agency to notify Last Stand directly should they decide to allow shallow wells instead of the deep well system, so that Last Stand may join other concerned Keys groups in challenging DEP’s action.
“We strongly support the DIG DEEP CUDJOE coalition (www.digdeepcudjoe.com), formed specifically to ensure that Lower Keys waste water will go deep and not into our nearshore waters,” Girard said. “If enough of us contact our County Commissioners and the FKAA, we can all work together to accomplish the right thing for the environment.”
Deep well injection systems are already in place in Key West and Key Largo, while smaller shallow injection well plants operate on Stock Island, Marathon and at some businesses and private residences.
Last Stand has been organized to promote, preserve, and protect the quality of life in the city of Key West, the Florida Keys and their environs, with particular emphasis on the natural environment. To learn more about Last Stand visit keyslaststand.org/.