The legal challenge brought by Cudjoe Gardens and Sugarloaf Shores property owners associations over the use of shallow injection wells at the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System treatment plant resulted in a guarantee for the expeditious completion of a deep injection well, a generator dedicated to that well, monthly water quality monitoring, and restricted flow as shallow wells are utilized during deep well construction.
Approval of the settlement today by county commissioners averted an Oct. 26 hearing before a state administrative judge.
“We were pleased when FKAA and the county listened to our concerns and agreed to construct a deep well. Now this settlement will stop new invitations to connect if water sampling detects pollution from using the shallow wells while the deep well is built,” Cudjoe Gardens POA President Larry Francisco said.
The settlement calls for flow to the shallow wells to be limited to 420,000 gallons per day, the same as the earlier settlement with two Lower Keys fishermen. In addition, FKAA agreed to collect surface water samples monthly from at least 12 locations nearby and surrounding the shallow wells and to increase groundwater monitoring at the adjacent landfill. Results will be posted publically on FKAA’s website. If a three-month test period shows significant increase in potentially harmful nutrients, FKAA will cease to issue invitations to connect.
“Our experts are convinced that the treated wastewater will encroach on nearshore waters creating an imbalance in the surrounding marine environment. We look to the aqueduct authority to be diligent in water quality monitoring and take prompt and appropriate actions if any degradation is detected. After all, the intention of building a central sewer system was to improve the quality of our nearshore waters,” Francisco said.
The POAs also gained approval for an onsite generator dedicated to the deep well. Concern arose during a state-mandated public meeting in September when it became clear that FKAA intended to rely on the shallow wells as a backup during electrical outages. Each side also agreed to handle their own legal costs.
“The property owners associations pursued this action because our members felt strongly that we needed to do as much as possible to protect the delicate ecosystem surrounding our islands. This settlement reflects the dedication of our communities to safeguard our unique environment, our economy and our quality of life,” said Sugarloaf Shores POA President Chuck Licis.
Cudjoe Gardens and Sugarloaf Shores property owners associations are voluntary organizations representing more than 500 members.