Guest Editorial: Cudjoe Regional Sewer Design / A Look Behind The Curtain
CUDJOE REGIONAL WASTEWATER SYSTEM, WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON?
Here is another piece of the puzzle on how the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System (CRWS) came to be so very badly designed that those of us who are paying attention actually consider it to be an endangerment to our National Marine Sanctuary, and far from an improvement to existing treatment and disposal. The information herein was not easily obtained. We still need someone to come forth with information about the graft that is so strongly suspected. An anonymous informant with details that can be verified by the Feds would be great. Many feel that the level of deceit, the secrecy, the design, and the choices are just too unbelievable to not be motivated by cash or its equivalent.
On July 7, 2008 a meeting amongst County, FKAA, and FDEP engineers was held. One of the Agenda items for that meeting was to discuss “Potential use of alternative or low pressure collection systems for low density areas.”
ONLY ONE ALTERNATIVE TO GRAVITY OFFERED: E-One Brand Grinder Pumps
At that meeting, FDEP told FKAA to use only E-One brand grinder pumps if conventional gravity was not possible! No Vacuum sewer, no STEP (septic tank effluent pumping) systems, and no other brand of grinders (like St. Lucie or parts of Sarasota County uses) were recommended. The minutes say,
“Gravity preferred wherever possible for reliability. E1 low pressure grinder pumping system/forcemains okay where gravity not available”.
E-1 brand grinder pumps were specified by name but are the least suitable choice for the Keys! Dr. Gunnar Hovstadius, a world renowned pump expert, explained in his pro bono deposition for Dump the Pumps (DTPI) why E-1 grinder pumps are the least suitable of all systems for any area with frequent power outages (and the occasional flood). That is, when they are used as an alternate collection system instead of an appurtenance for a special circumstance. They do have their place, but it is not here.
Knowing that FDEP strongly encouraged the use of E-1 pumps, it becomes obvious why FDEP has tried to dismiss the complaints of DTPI. The FDEP meeting was mid-2008. The current design of E-One pump has only existed since 2006. So FDEP recommended a specific pump that had been in production for less than 2 years! The Contract Specifications for the CRWS required a 10 year pump history, so although the pump was sole-sourced, it actually does not meet the Specifications.
Many years ago, E-One developed a reputation for having a reasonably reliable pump, but it was built with General Electric washing machine parts. (no kidding!) The current model is very different and has a very questionable reliability record to date: Westport, Connecticut reports a 7% failure rate in the first two years and E-1 making excuses to avoid the warranty. High Springs, FL reports they replaced 425 of their 900 E-One grinders pumps between 2013 and March 2014.
Intentional Sleight of Hand?
About 4 months after the FDEP meeting mentioned above, on November 19, 2008, a “Wastewater Master Plan Update Workshop” was held that focused strictly on the collection system. This was an outrageous sales pitch for a grinder pump pressure sewer system. FKAA’s slides compared the construction cost of various systems for Upper Sugarloaf, Cudjoe, and Summerland Keys. The slides are obviously erroneous (some even ask whether they are fraudulent) to anyone with enough experience in sewage collection, but are verified bogus and intentionally misleading with other documentary evidence. For example….
The Monroe County Sanitary Wastewater Master Plan of June 2000 compared the cost of vacuum, centrifugal grinder pumps, and progressive cavity (E-1) grinder pumps as alternatives to gravity sewer. The progressive cavity E-1 grinder pump was always less cost effective than normal centrifugal grinders in every one of the 23 service areas evaluated, including the CRWS. One has to seriously question why the less cost effective E-1 grinder pump would be selected for the CRWS then, if the goal was to cut costs as stated.
Vaccum Sewers Determined Most Cost Effective in Master Plan
More incriminating, the 2000 Master Plan determined that, “Vacuum sewers were the most cost-effective collection system when more than 350 EDUs were collected in sewered areas in the Lower and Middle Keys.” The exact same determination was made for the Upper Keys. Yet FKAA’s presentation claimed vacuum to be less cost effective than the most expensive type of grinders!
The vacuum system construction estimates of August 2008 for these three islands were about 30% of the cost shown on the slides, and although those estimates did not include everything, they did include the most expensive items. Comparing apples to apples using actual contract prices, about $6 million would have been saved with vacuum on just these 3 islands. Unlike with grinder pumps, people on a vacuum system could still flush during an extended power outage. With vacuum, homeowners would not have to provide power for a County-owned pump installed on a forced easement in their yard. Many older homes do not have adequate electrical capacity to provide that power and may have to upgrade at considerable personal expense. When a vacuum pipe leaks, ground water leaks in and the operator knows there is a problem. When a grinder pump forcemain pipe leaks, raw sewage is injected under pressure into the tidal groundwater and thence into the nearest canal or perhaps the life sustaining freshwater lens- and nobody knows about it unless a sinkhole develops..
City of Marathon Engineers Determined Vacuum Most Cost Effective
The City of Marathon’s engineers, Weiler Engineering, did a thorough and detailed cost estimate for each of the collection basins in that city and concluded that vacuum was usually the most cost effective. That was at about the same time as FKAA prepared their bogus estimates. Marathon combined short gravity collection systems with mini-pump stations in the right of way for the widely scattered populations of Grassy Key, but virtually all other areas were vacuum.
Key Largo and Islamorada Sewer Districts Found Vacuum Most Cost Effective
Key Largo and Islamorada sewer districts also found vacuum the most cost effective.. But in the FKAA’s Master Plan Update presentation, vacuum was usually shown as about equal or more expensive than everything except STEP (septic tank effluent pumping). That is absurd and they know it..
Anyone with experience or who has done some research knows that STEP is by far the cheapest to construct, the cheapest for homeowners’ connection costs, and the cheapest to maintain next to conventional gravity sewers. If the STEP effluent pumps are installed as recommended in interceptor pits, septic tank effluent temporarily reverts to the old drainfield during power outages, so Slide 9 of the Master Plan Update presentation is also misleading by stating sewer service is lost.
Charlotte County’s Engineers Chose STEP, Rejected Grinder Pumps
Charlotte County’s consultants (Boyle Engineering) did a thorough evaluation of available sewer systems and chose STEP, rejecting grinder pumps completely. Not only were grinders found to be more costly than STEP, grinders were rated just above old septic tanks for environmental safety. Many believe septic tanks more environmentally friendly than grinder pumps, for good reason..
Amazingly, FDEP engineers think that Charlotte County uses a grinder pump collection system. They used Charlotte as an example of a grinder pump LPS (low pressure sewer) success story in a meeting with FKAA in Ft Myers on October 28, 2013. FDEP’s Professional Engineer Supervisor III in Ft Myers (Gary Maier, P.E.) even testified under oath that Charlotte County successfully uses a grinder pump LPS! This was in the Administrative Hearing deposition demanded by Dump the Pumps, Inc.. (pages 11-12 and 18-19 at the link) When asked about the quantity of grinder pumps in Charlotte’s LPS system, Mr. Maier stated, “They have a substantial number. I don’t know what the number is, but am aware that the alternative system guidance that DEP drafted in the 1980s was drafted for and with and by the people that were developing the Charlotte County systems.” Yes, the same engineers at FDEP that told FKAA not to use STEP do not know that the LPS system that they praise so highly in their adjacent county is STEP and not grinder pumps!
Interestingly, the FKAA’s Master Plan Update presentation shows a construction cost difference of only about $7 million between all gravity or all grinder pumps. Who would not see gravity as the obvious choice? The maintenance cost alone of so many grinder pumps would far exceed the interest on $7 million!
The FKAA “Decision Tree”
Then there is the infamous “Decision Tree” that appears to have made its debut in FKAA’s Master Plan Update presentation. It restricts gravity sewers to very dense subdivisions, although at least three engineers from FKAA who live where the Decision Tree decrees must have grinder pumps were designed to have gravity sewers at considerable extra public cost. Are you surprised?
Vacuum sewers typically require 75 homes within reach in order to be cost effective. FKAA’s Decision Tree requires 750! That 750 is far more than Baypoint’s entire vacuum system including Bayview RV Park (345 occupied lots), and is 10 times the industry guideline.
STEP was not even considered in the Decision Tree for centralized sewer areas. The Design Tree was included as a restriction in the Design Criteria Package for the CRWS design-build “outer islands” contract. With the FKAA’s Decision Tree, grinder pump LPS is the answer to all. Sure looks like somebody “stacked the deck”.
In a really bizarre aberration from sensible sewer design, the gravity sewer areas in the CRWS are designed to have neighborhood lift stations equipped with multiple residential E-1 grinder pumps! These pumps are unsafe to use in such an application per the National Electric Code and the National Fire Protection Association. They could cause a disastrous explosion of a whole neighborhood’s sewers! If interested, you can read DTPI’s electrical engineer’s deposition here.
Although FKAA sole-sourced the E-1 make and model pumps, the CRWS Contract Specifications require them to be explosion-proof, but they are not. FKAA’s consultant electrical engineer added that requirement to E-1’s canned specification text during review. The pumps were never approved by the electrical engineer; they were approved by an environmental engineer who can be expected to not know any better.
But even if they were legal, they are impractical. They each pump slowly (about like a garden hose flows), were never designed for such a heavy duty application, and were not designed to run submerged or for more than a minute or two at a time in normal operation. In the CRWS design, a group of 2 to 4 light duty residential pumps are expected to handle the flow from about 40 to over 100 homes! The design head pressure they must overcome in normal operation exceeds the manufacturer’s recommended maximum in some areas!
This is not a gravity sewer system supplemented by grinder pumps, it is a grinder pump LPS supplemented by gravity collection to shared grinder pits! Everybody’s wastewater will be pumped by E-1 grinder pits, but the “losers” as Commissioner Neugent calls them have to surrender privacy and property rights, and pay extra to have a pump station in their yard.
Even after the construction contracts were out to bid for a system using thousands of grinder pits, FKAA public presentations stated about 600 grinder pumps might be used for remote areas. In the Master Plan Update presentation, FKAA minimized the perceived impact that grinder pumps would have on those receiving them by stating on Slide 7 with underlined emphasis that “Some pumping units may need to be on private property w/ easement required.” The claim was “some”, not “every”, but the reality is very different than the FKAA marketing claim.
In the attempt to avoid the costly, but environmentally protective regulatory requirement of deep well effluent disposal, FKAA apparently fudged lower flow numbers, and then designed their entire collection system around the fictitious lower flows. In other words, the wastewater plant is undersized and the whole collection system is undersized.
See also: Guest Editorial by Harry Powell: The Real Story Behind the Resistance to Deep Well Wastewater Disposal
In a conventional gravity sewer system, unusually high periods of flow can be passively accommodated by allowing the manholes and piping to temporarily fill with the excess as reserve capacity. With a pressure system like the CRWS design, there is no inherent reserve capacity. If it will not all fit immediately through the pipes, there will be alarms sounding and overflows. Also, the E-1 pumps are capable of bursting pipes and fittings if they encounter excessive pumping resistance. [see deposition of Dr. Gunnar Hovstadius] They have done it elsewhere and they will do it here.
Also of interest: Here is what Germantown Hills, IL tells residents about potential for failure of their grinder pump systems.
If you care about the Keys environment, you may wish to donate to the legal expenses of the people fighting for sensible sewers and against environmental catastrophe.
The website http://DumpThePumps.com has information on how to donate to their legal fund, you can even do so with a credit card.
Eugene Nanay, a Civil Engineer and Land Surveyor with in-the-field experience in the construction industry dating back to 1970, retired from FKAA in 2005 where he was a Senior Contract Field Representative, aka Sr. Inspector.
7 thoughts on “Guest Editorial: Cudjoe Regional Sewer Design / A Look Behind The Curtain”
This column is clear, detailed and damning. Anyone who wasn’t already convinced the FKAA’s Cudjoe Regional plan was fatally flawed should now be a convert. And whose pockets were lined for FKAA to go down the sole-source E-1 path?
Great guest editorial.
In dreams throughout last night, County Commissioner George Neugent and Arnaud and Naja Girard, with intermittent back up from County Commissioner Heather Carruthers and former State Attorney Dennis Ward, tag-teamed me about something I had not jumped on, or had spaced out, or had let slip by me, about which I had received a letter, according to Neugent in the last of the gang bang dreams.
So, on waking about 5:30 a.m., seriously delighted, of course, figuring Neugent was the lead character, I dragged my carcass out of bed and went online and looked in the blue paper, since the Girards were Neugent’s primary accomplices in the gang bang.
That’s how I finally came to open and read this guest editorial, about which I had been poked in an email yesterday evening from Banks Prevatt, President of Dump the Pumps, Inc., a grassroots outfit, which has fought Neugent, in whose county voting district Cudjoe Regional lies, and the Monroe County Commission, Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (a joke name, Mother Nature will agree) tooth and nail, fang and claw, over extensive use of E-1 grinder pumps in Cudjoe Regional Sewer District, about which I wrote a heap of articles since the fall of 2013, at http://www.goodmorningfloridakeys.com, including my conviction that the entire thing was rigged and somebody got paid off, but who?
Who got paid off in the Cudjo Regional Sewer District scam, I still do not know, but I’m convinced somebody got paid off.
In late fall 2013, I did my darndest to persuade Naja to jump on Cudjoe Regional in the blue paper, and to get Last Stand to jump on it, she was (and is) President of Last Stand, which is supposed to jump on things like this, but she said Dump the Pumps had waited too long, as if that mattered when Mother Nature was being raped and Last Stand is supposed to defend Her with all due speed and effort and its resources, including litigation. Dump the Pumps is using litigation.
I ask again, Naja: Did you know that Eugene Nanay did not write the guest editorial? I have it from the horses mouth at Dump the Pumps, that someone else authored it, and Nana signed off on it. I was told to keep that to myself, but, darn, given the title of the editorial, “A Look Behind the Curtain”, and the whistle blower pic, there’s a bit of a problem, don’t you think. Not that I don’t like the guest editorial, for I do like it; but it should have been submitted anonymously, or the real author should have put his, I think it’s a he, name on it. If it’s who I think it is, he’s refused from way back when to be in plain view with what he knows, fearing retaliation, very likely justifiably, as he works for either Monroe County or FKAA.
My understanding is that the editorial was put together by several members of Dump The Pumps who have worked tirelessly to obtain the information they shared with us. The article was submitted to me anonymously with a request to use the organization’s byline “by Dump The Pumps” or “contributed”. I required that one of the authors put their name on the piece – although it is a well-documented article it does ask some serious questions and puts some public officials indirectly in the hotseat. My policy is to have someone named who can answer questions on controversial issues. Fluff pieces are allowed in as “contributed”. Sloan, are your angels getting bored? Surely, there is something more worthwhile for you to focus on? Perhaps you could help Dump the Pumps in their research…
From the president of Dump the Pumps, yesterday, responding my questions, “Where did you find the whistle blower?” and “When?”
“[email protected] 12/14/14 x
To: [email protected]
“Between you and me. We have had the whistle blower and all along. He is the ghost writer for the article signed by another.”
I am bored, for a fact. But I don’t think my explaining why will go down well.
Last Stand, which you lead, as its president, should have been all over the grinder pump problem.
The people now in Dump the Pumps, who knew what was going on before Dump the Pumps came into being, should have come forward in plain view a long time ago. They should have painted bulls-eyes on themselves, like you and Arnaud do, like I do. They should have come to me, when I ran against George Neugent in 2006, and again in 2010, and I would have blown raised bloody hell.
Apparently, the angels didn’t want me involved, though, because nobody came to me, and the angels didn’t nudge me to get involved until after I had sold my place on Little Torch Key laat August 2013, and was living in Key West again, and then had no dog in that fight, for my place on Little Torch was to receive a grinder pump.
After being relocated back to Key West, there was nothing I could do but make noise, attend various Dump the Pump and county commission and FKAA meetings, and make more noise. The experts, the folks with the technical training, who knew the terrain, were feeding info to Banks, but were insistent to be kept anonymous. I got onto them, but it went no where.
In Cudjoe Regional Sewer District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which approved all of the FKAA plan and issued the many permits, is as sorry and low down and corrupt as Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the Charles Eimers case. A MAJOR story, FDEP’s corruption, and County Commissioner George Neugent’s f*** you, you ingrates and whiners, attitude toward his lower Keys constituents, who tried many times to get his attention.
But you could not be bothered, Naja. Although the angels did push me to try to get you bothered. And I did try,
Yeah, I’m bored. Bored with people complaining, who do not put their names on their complaints. Bored with people who vote for a candidate, who they know is bad news, and then they won’t fess up to who they voted for, even as they complain about how their candidate is behaving.
Do you fit in that category, Naja?
Did you vote for Mayor Cates, or Margaret Romero, knowing they were backing KWPD all the way in the Eimers case? Don’t you think your readers deserve to know how you voted? And how Arnaud voted, if he voted/can vote?
Did you vote for George Neugent, Naja? Did Arnaud, if he can vote?
Did you go to county commission meetings and get onto the commissioners about Cudjoe Regional being mostly grinder pumps?
Did you go to city commission meetings and get onto Cates and your city commissioner and the other city commissioners about how their police killed Charles Eimers?
I did all of that, Naja. As far as I know, I was the only person who did it in a city commission meeting, and I did it several times.
A number of people spoke at county commission meetings against the grinder pump fiasco. And at FKAA meetings. I know, because I was one of them. We were Last Stand at those meetings.
And I was the blue paper reporting it at goodmorningkeywest.com, and goodmorningfloridakeys.com.
Your basic point, apparently, is that we are not doing enough community service work? O.K. Got it. I’d prefer to appreciate what you do, what Dump the Pumps, Last Stand, Dig Deep Cudjoe, the POA’s in the upper Keys, and what many others are doing in terms of volunteer work to benefit the community. ~ Naja