Guest Column: Key Haven Failures and New Development

Ahh…here’s a great place to build my dream home.

by Margaret Blank…….

Update: I emailed county staff asking about this one. I copied members of the Keys media, too. That’s my new thing. If I hear anything (doubtful!) I’ll let you know.

I was perusing Monroe County’s Comprehensive Plan Update the other day and I saw something very interesting.

Objective 901.1

Monroe County shall ensure that, at the time a certificate of occupancy, or its functional equivalent is issued, adequate sanitary wastewater treatment and disposal facilities, including wastewater treatment facilities and onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems, are available to support the development at the adopted level of service standards, and annually update the five-year schedule of capital needs accordingly. [§163.3180(1)(b), F.S., §163.3180(2)., F.S., §163.3177(6)(c), F.S.]

So before a certificate of occupancy is issued, the county must make sure that “adequate” sewer service is available to “support the development at the adopted level of service standards”. Adopted level of service standards? What’s that? Well here’s a snip from the Comprehensive Plan Update that explains exactly what that is.

The table doesn’t explicitly say so but these are annual averages mandated by the FDEP. So what happens if a wastewater treatment system repeatedly fails to meet these requirements? It would seem to me that the county would be obligated to withhold certificates of occupancy for new development within the service area until the system is brought into compliance. Unfortunately, this is not theoretical. The county is facing this very issue today.

I’ve discussed the ongoing problem at Big Coppitt, where the FKAA is having difficulty meeting total suspended solids (TSS )effluent limits. Fortunately, those issues haven’t been enough to cause the annual average to be out of compliance. So even though several samples have exceeded the single sample limit, the plant is in compliance when it comes to the annual average. For now.

There’s another worrisome issue people in the area ought to know about – the plant has also been out of compliance on fecal coliform samples a couple of times. One sample was 2000 cfu/100 mL. The limit is 25 cfu/100 mL. Fortunately, this has only been reported twice that I know about.

The Duck Key wastewater treatment plant has also run into trouble meeting TSS and fecal coliform limits. Again, the annual averages are still compliant, but single sample maximums have been exceeded multiple times.

The FDEP has sent compliance assistance offer letters to the FKAA regarding the ongoing issues at both of these plants. Big Coppitt has received two. The first one noted the exceedances but still rated the plant in compliance. Presumably this first letter served as a warning. The second one detailed another round of similar issues. Unfortunately, detailed responses from the FKAA are not on file. As far as I can tell, the FKAA has no intention of addressing the issue in a forthright way. I guess they just expect people to live with it. Sadly, the FKAA has a long track record of lying to the public and abusing their trust.

According to the December 2016 DMR, the Key Haven plant is out of compliance on annual averages for three of the four parameters listed in the county code – total suspended solids (TSS), total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorus (TP). Not a peep from FDEP yet though. Certainly not a peep from the FKAA. As I pointed out above, there’s another responsible entity involved here. Monroe County is obligated to withhold certificates of occupancy unless adequate wastewater treatment facilities are available. So has the county run into this issue in the Key Haven area? If they have, did they actually follow their own requirements and withhold a certificate of occupancy?

Well, if the Ocean’s Edge debacle has taught us anything, it’s that the county isn’t a big fan of following its own rules.

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5 thoughts on “Guest Column: Key Haven Failures and New Development

  1. If you go to and click on the PUBLIC OCULUS LOGIN button it will provide you access to any records that FDEP has uploaded. (Note: Not all the records have been uploaded because they have been understaffed in the Marathon office for several years)

    On the Search page select the following:
    Catalog = Wastewater

    Big Coppit / Facility-Site ID = FLA567591
    Duck Key / Facility-Site ID = FLA014772

    If you look at their permits the parameters that you identified above BOD, TSS, TN and TP have monthly limitations as well as annual. I believe that the plants may be sampling bi-weekly.

    1. Yes, sampling is typically biweekly. There are roughly 24 compliance samples per year. So if they fail 5-6 in a 12-month period, that’s a lot.

  2. Actually after you issue the permit and it passes the inspections you dam sure better issue the CO
    The time to verify is before issuing the permit not after

    1. Perhaps. But Monroe County’s comp plan is not written that way. I imagine they will issue the CO’s. In violation of their comp plan.

      1. Perhaps you don’t understand what a C O means. To refuse a C O after a building was permitted, built and passed inspections will land them in court. As a builder the C O is just paper work to use the building. Often does not even mean all construction is over. It often might mean some items such as painting might not be finished. It simply indicates complete enough to live in Make me rich and refuse it LOL.

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