It’s really a blessing in disguise that Cudjoe Regional hasn’t started operation yet. One very senior DEP official has called this sewer system “kind of a big experiment.” And it’s already showing problems before it’s even operating.
I hear reports from the field people that some of the gravity sewers are so leaky that they can’t keep them emptied. And normally a service tech would turn on lift station pumps and know immediately that they were working because the water level would start dropping quickly. But in Cudjoe, the pumps are so pitifully slow that it is not so easy to see.
You do not need to be a rocket scientist to realize that using 3 of the slowest available residential grinder pumps to do the industrial duty pumping of wastewater from about 80 homes on a single lift station might not be a very bright plan. Especially if those sluggish pumps might spark a sewer explosion because they were never designed, tested, or approved for that application.
The delay in connections is an unrecognized blessing. Right now, while nobody is connected and system repairs are still the contractor’s responsibility is the time to identify and correct any and all sources of inflow and infiltration. The manholes should be almost dry- after all, this is a brand new system with nobody connected. The fact that they can’t be kept emptied is cause for real concern and much needed action. It’s time to start flipping manhole lids off to localize the problems.
Now that FKAA has a pump-out truck, it could be used to haul in water to fill the lift stations in Cudjoe with the power turned off to simulate a storm-caused power outage. Then switch on all the power and see how long to get the full quantity to the treatment plant. Put some pressure gauges on the force main flush-outs to see what pressure is developing. Remember that it will be way worse when several hundred individual grinder pumps of the exact same make and model are competing with those few in each lift station.
This is a golden opportunity to identify and remedy problems before raw sewage complicates issues.
Another issue is the pump telemetry system. There are only 31 in Duck Key and they are reportedly still not all functioning properly after about two years. In Cudjoe Regional, FKAA ordered thousands more without certainty they will ever work. Just like the whole collection system, “it’s kind of a big experiment.” Fix this system now while the design engineers and contractors are still liable.
Big Pine Key