We All Want A Good System and Good Water Quality, As Promised…

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Some may try painting Dump The Pumps, Inc as being “against sewers”; that the group is simply trying to be disruptive and aims to bring all sewer construction to a stop.

Wrong!  We all want a good system and good water quality, as promised when we passed the one cent infrastructure sales tax.

Anyone that has attended the various meetings, followed the chatter, asked questions, donated money, signed the petitions knows that the fight is simple.  A substandard sewer system, mandated by politicians rather than engineers, putting grinder pumps in our yards, threatening our nearshore waters, is the fight.  Do not forget the original system, designed by engineers, was a gravity system.  It was not until the politicians got involved that we saw sewer money diverted to pet projects and a cheapened system thrust upon us.

The FKAA tells us they prefer gravity, ‘It always works, and it has no moving parts.’  Further, they said, ‘Get us the money from the BOCC, and we will install gravity.’

On January 31, 2014, the BOCC “drew a line in the sand” — that is a quote.  Thankfully, Commissioner Danny Kohlhage successfully added the conversion of some of the denser subdivisions to that BOCC agenda item approval, and thereby reduced the count of residential grinders by nearly 40%.  That still left over 60% of the original grinder count as intrusions, property takings and added expenses of up to several thousand dollars for those homeowners. Their decision was final. There would be no further discussion or negotiations regarding grinder vs gravity.  Those who were still pegged for grinders were told they were “losers” — that is also a quote [by Commissioner George Neugent].  In essence they told us to pick up our marbles and go home.  We picked up our marbles, went home, and decided to go to a higher authority — court.

Since this is the only avenue the county left us, we are using the legal system.  Forced into this arena, the group attacked on all fronts. Our first challenge to DEP and FKAA, an action under F.S. 403.412, was met with what appeared to be a serious listen to our concerns.  Of course, they wanted an additional 30 days to examine our allegations.  After wasting two months of our time, DEP blew us off with one sentence, translated to mean, ‘Don’t bother us.’

Next, we challenged seven permit notices throughout the Lower Keys.  We did it properly.  If the challenge is timely and proper there is no permit until a further ruling.  DEP then had an obligation to submit the petitions challenging the permits to the Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) within 15 days.  They did not. After several weeks, we filed a Writ of Mandamus in Circuit Court to force DEP to do what the law says they should do.  They immediately sent the petitions to DOAH.  We now have a judge appointed and a hearing set for later in September.

FKAA has maximized the use of an oddball sole-sourced pump and designed a system dependent upon its continued use. If that does not smell funny, what does? The fact that they hid these details and even the quantity of individual grinders further intensifies that effect. The DEP design requirements that were violated and listed in the DTPI lawsuit and now in the permit protests were intended to protect public health and the environment. That DEP allowed these violations to exist is serious. Recently discovered information confirms that the system will not adequately work. The stubborn insistence on continuing construction, with a strong emphasis on completing the residential grinder areas first is further evidence of something suspicious. With the trail of deception perpetrated on property owners by our elected and appointed officials, maybe the pressurized system should be stopped. Even at this late date, an independent third party review would probably be wise.

FKAA knows they will not be finished by 2015, or even hook up Big Pine, a National Wildlife Refuge, until 2016. Wouldn’t it be wise to cease construction until after the hearing? There’s a lot at stake.  September isn’t that far away.

Credibility for FKAA does not exist.  See below.

FACTS:

  1. In the fall of 2012, FKAA, in printed material and public meetings, preaches that only about 600 grinders will be necessary in remote areas of the Lower Keys and that more dense neighborhoods will be on gravity.  We all think we are getting gravity. At about the same time, they have already gone out to contractors to bid the project with 2800 residential grinders.
  2. We continue to ask why the permits from DEP to FKAA are advertised in a Broward County newspaper.  Last week an executive with FKAA told a Key West newspaper that this was an oversight by the contractor.  Propaganda.  See if you can find one notice of permits for FKAA in any local Monroe County news outlet for this system. Do they not want you to know what they are doing?
  3. The chief engineer of FKAA even tried to subvert the permitting notice in an email to DEP. Another oversight perhaps? In recent weeks, the engineer with FKAA sent an email to DEP suggesting the next permit for Big Pine Key not be advertised (noticed) in a public forum because Dump the Pumps, Inc. would probably be looking for it and would challenge the notice with a petition negating the permit.
  4. There has been little or no consultation with NOAA or U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and there is a Federal “nexus” since some of this money came from the EPA – a NEPA requirement for Environmental Assessment.

Sad as it is, I have told many people that this is a civics lesson that is not taught in schools.  Dump the Pumps, Inc., is doing things by the book.  The organization’s attorney is engaged and filing legal stuff.  DEP blows us off, a county commissioner and the executive director of FKAA go on a local public radio station and say they have the go-ahead from DEP to continue working.  Apparently, DEP does not have to answer to the same laws as the rest of us — we are not through with this one.

There are ample incidents of sewage backups into homes and a number of other communities have replaced this type of system. There are alternatives. Every FKAA customer may see added expense regardless of where they live. Even if all was above board and the system would function properly, the extra expense of operating  and maintenance could drive up all FKAA sewer customer’s rates. Basically, we will pay for most of the system over and over again, since its life expectancy is only 25 years – if you believe that.

The attack is broad and may appear as though we are fighting sewers in the Keys. This is not true. Everyone in the County should be protesting this. Our fight is against a politically designed inferior central sewer system which includes the intrusion of grinders on private property, a taking of private property, and  disregard for the environment- the main reason we all  are trying to put in a sewer system.  Our fight is simply to ask them to do this right and do it right the first time.

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