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.

Click here to find out more about Dump The Pumps, Inc.


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7 comments on “We All Want A Good System and Good Water Quality, As Promised…

  1. It’s the politicians that are Evil. The Nuevo Gang of three, Mayor Murphy, Neugent,& Rice. They diverted funds voted “BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE” specifically for a quality system that the Engineers said should be Gravity. This oligarchy decided that We wern’t smart enough to make decisions on our own so they listened to their friends , the Power Brokers, and THE PEOPLE were Losers, Again. Murphy got her Marina, George got his Old 7 Mile bridge. I haven’t figured out what Rice got Yet and the Losers in the lower keys got screwed as usual. Now this makes me wonder. How did these Servants of The People manage to come up, individually, with an idea that, the money voted for sewers would be better spent for their Pet projects. Sometime in the past I seem to recall something called “The Sunshine Law”. I wonder if this might apply in this situation. Was the Sunshine Law broken?? In one of the western states didn’t “The People” Remove from office one of their elected officials because “The People” decided he wasn’t representing them? Is “the Nuevo Gang of Three” representing “The People “, Not NO but HELL NO. Throw the bums out. On this day in history the voice of “The People” told the King HELL NO. Over 28000 Americans gave their lives to show that they were serious. On this day “The People” are telling the Nuevo Gang of Three HELL NO. If we can’t Recall them we can VOTE them out of office. History will be the final judge of this event. And the Nuevo Gang of Three will get their Legacy–LOSERS!

  2. Excellent, factual, well-reasoned article. The sewer system was supposed to be about improving water quality in nearshore waters, not a cheap quick fix. History will not be kind to the 3 commissioners who turned their back on the blatant engineering flaws of the sewer project. Their legacy will be a betrayal of public trust resulting in long term woes for the taxpayer and the environment. Grinder pumps are a disaster (hurricane) waiting to happen .

  3. Nice job, Harry –

    “Even at this late date, an independent third party review would probably be wise.”

    Maybe State Attorney Catherine Vogel would be an independent third party, my preference would be the FBI and the US Attorney, however, to investigate and prosecute FKAA, DEP and Monroe County and their officials and employees responsible for what really does seem to be organized criminal behavior.

    For blue paper readers new to this circus, a New Jersey neighborhood with grinder pumps got flooded by Hurricane Sandy and the pumps failed and human poop backed up in the homes and was out in the yards and Hazmat teams had to go in and clean it up.

    The President of the ARRP chapter on Big Pine, after their meeting on Cudjoe Regional, basically put on by Kevin Wilson, the county’s engineer assigned to ramrod Cudjoe Regional, who had no prior sewer experience – well, the ARRP President told me after the meeting, God only knows why he didn’t say it during the meeting, that he owned home in I think it was Wisconsin, maybe Minnesota, and in that subdivision they all had grinder pumps, and they were buried in water, the water table was shallow, and he’d had to replace his grinder pump 3 times in maybe 12 years.

    FKAA has nowhere near the manpower to deal with a Hurricane Wilma event, which floods entire islands and knocks out electricity for days or even up to two weeks. Grinder pumps require electricity to operate. Kevin Wilson said at the AARP meeting, after I had dropped the Hurricane Sandy/New Jersey bomb in their midst, that FKAA encourages all who get grinder pumps to have generator backup. For most people who did not already have generators, that would require rewiring and bringing in 220, and buying a generator. And turning it on, if they were here, and not like the ARRP President summering somewhere up north.

    More problems. Grinder pumps have been known to explode. They are recommended to be installed away from dwellings because they are known to give off bad smells. They are known to wear out; most places down here they would be installed below the water table – the salt water table.

    Grinder pump lines, like all sewer lines, sooner or later spring leaks. Because grinder pump lines are dug shallow, a foot deep, or so, above the water table. The hydrostatic pressure inside the line is greater than the hydrostatic pressure outside the line, and the leaks put raw sewerage into the ground around the line, which raw sewerage eventually makes its way into the saltwater table, and then into the lagoons, canals, creeks and bays and ocean and out to the reef – coral and nitrogen don’t get along even a little bit. Furthermore, grinder pump line leaks cannot be detected, thus cannot be repaired.

    Gravity lines are laid below the water table, maybe 10 or more feet, to create the gravity effect. The hydrostatic pressure outside gravity lines is greater than the hydrostatic pressure inside gravity lines, so salt water comes in through the leaks into the lines, and no sewerage escapes. Furthermore, gravity line leaks can be detected and repaired. FKAA detects and repairs gravity line leaks now, and did in the past. Key West, for example, it nearly all gravity, managed by FKAA.

    The entire point of sewering the Keys was to rid us of septic systems and cess pits, which, alas, grinder pumps have the the potential to rival and, in a Hurricane Wilma event, seriously out do.

    I read emails from George Neugent to constituents who had written to him about grinder pumps. George belittled those constituents. He held himself out to be an expert on pumps, dating back to his oil company drilling days and to having a grinder pump at Corky’s BBQ on US 1 in Marathon, which he owned and operated before he became a county commissioner.

    George extolled grinder pumps, as good as or better environmentally, than gravity. And cheaper than gravity. His grinder pump at Corky’s operated ongoing. Grinder pumps which are not used regularly tend to stop working. Extra maintenance is needed on grinder pumps, which will not be used for over, I think, two weeks. How about for 3 or 6 months, in the case of snowbirds? In hope they will work when the grinder pump is turned back on again, after a long lay-off.

    I emailed George, said, well, if if grinder pumps are cheaper than and as environmentally good as gravity, then he and the other 4 county commissioners, Kevin Wilson, FKAA and DEP would have used grinder pumps exclusively in Cudjoe Regional. It would have been malfeasance to use gravity, if it was more expensive and not any better environmentally. George’s reply was that of a deer caught in headlights.

    I told the county commissioners the same thing at the county commission meeting Harry described, when the commissioners said that was as far as they were wiling to go.

    I talked at some length with Danny Coll about all of that. Danny was not happy with all those grinder pumps. He invited me up to Big Pine to speak to his Rotary Club about grinder pumps. I laid it on them.

    Several months before, I had attended a NOAH meeting in Marathon, and when I told them about Cudjoe Regional needing their immediate attention, they looked at me like I was daff.

    If blue paper readers who vote in the Keys wish to send the County Commission a message, vote for Danny Coll in his and George Neugent’s Republican primary on August 26.

    I ran against George in 2006 and 2010. In 2010, He said that was his last county commission race. His campaign posters on roadsides that year said, “PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT.”

  4. George and Danny’s race a closed Republican primary because a Democrat also filed to run for that county commission seat. So, only registered Keys Republican voters can vote in George and Danny’s primary.

  5. Here it is the Fourth of July and we celebrate what the American Revolution was about. A few things come to mind.
    Like all men are created equal, but not the people who a re getting a second rate sewer system.
    No taxation without representation- well we aren’t being very well represented and our taxes are going to things we don’t really need as much as good water quality.
    The right of the people to be secure in their person and effects- hmmm, – you have to grant an easement on your property for said stupid sewer system (S.S.S.) and they threaten to evict you if you don’t comply.
    By the people for the people. OK lets see that happen now! Please?

  6. Monroe County and Key West are dependent on our biggest industry, tourism. We have borrowed money on the projected taxes this industry brings in, issuing bonds to build our new sewer system to improve our ever declining water quality. Yet even Key West , with it’s newer sewer system has had to close some beaches due to fecal coliform contamination. With the known engineering flaws of the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, do we want to risk far worse contamination to beaches and nearshore waters throughout the Keys?
    Without a good tourist economy, we’ll be financially ruined trying to pay for this turkey. Word will spread and we’ll lose business. It’s like shooting ourselves in the foot to put in a substandard sewer system in the Lower Keys. All Keys residents should be up in the arms about this debacle.

  7. I don’t know how many millions in bonds we issued to pay for the sewer system, but one thing for sure is that if we put in a crappy sewer system and it fails and contaminates the lower keys, word will get around to our visitors who will not really want to come here. Then we are left holding that debt wishing that we were getting a lot of that sales tax money money from them! Uh Oh!

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