letter to the editor

An Open Letter To FKAA

by Larry Murray  …….

I was pleased to read that FKAA has slowed its rush to build a multi-million dollar desalinization plant, though I disagree with your reason for postponement.  I assume that the criticism raised by the Key West Chamber of Commerce played a part in your decision making.  I agree with the KWCoC that there needs  to be considerably more community input before FKAA invests tens of millions of dollars in a desalinization plant.  Shifting part of the cost to the state from local rate payers, I do not believe, is an adequate solution to the problem and may ultimately fail. What is needed is more creative thinking.

We all know that a steady supply of fresh drinking water will be a growing problem for Monroe County over the years.  The Miami aquifer is already severely strained and saltwater intrusion looms on the horizon.  And, who knows what negative effect FPL’s actions at the Turkey Point nuclear plant will have on the aquifer.  The necessity for locally providing potable water will grow over the years, perhaps exponentially.

Building a new desalinization plant is very much 20th century thinking.  It is reaching back to the past to solve a problem for the future.  My suggestion is that FKAA think more in terms of 21st century solutions to our dilemma.

One means of providing potable water that is employed throughout the country is converting wastewater to potable water.  FKAA recently built a 20th century sewage treatment plant on Cudjoe Key, replete with the problem of what to do with the treated effluent.  Great expense was made to drill deep holes to dispose of the effluent so as not to pollute nearshore waters.

I wish at the time that the sewage plant was constructed that FKAA had given serious consideration to a wastewater to potable water solution.  I raised that possibility early on with county officials when they were in charge of sewering the Lower Keys and found no interest.  Perhaps it is not too late to modify the Cudjoe plant.  I certainly think that it is well worth examining the feasibility of that option which would address two problems, disposal of wastewater and creation of potable water.

As they say, FKAA needs to “think out of the box”.  There is more involved here than just who will pay the construction costs. Much more thought and consideration of alternatives needs to be given before moving forward with an extremely expensive project.



One thought on “An Open Letter To FKAA

  1. No question that FKAA executives are short-sighted. And why do the Upper Keys have to subsidize a water substitute for the lower Keys? Furthermore, since the FKAA sewer rate is double the water rate, FKAA sewer customers can expect to feel the pain twice of a water rate increase to fund an RO plant rebuild.
    So far as running an RO plant to produce drinking water from toilet flushes (as some places do), the Cudjoe plant has been permitted by DEP to accept flow that exceeds the design capacity of the plan by over 35% . Apparently nobody at DEP thought to add up the permits for the various islands within the collection area. Instead, they relied on the signed false certification of FKAA Deputy Executive Director (and P.E.) Thomas G. Walker that “sufficient reserve capacity” existed at the plant to add on each new island’s collection system. Where is Walker now? Retired to the mansion he built on the mainland during the Cudjoe Regional sewer project. That’s a big step up from his inland 2 bedroom townhouse condo homestead in Osprey, FL. FKAA Engineering’s next in command quit with him, and headed back to his mainland homestead, leaving the Lower Keys to deal with the disaster they fostered.
    If the plant can’t even treat to the intended minimum standard, would you want to attempt to run that scuz through a membrane softening/reverse osmosis water purification system? RO is very sensitive to certain characteristics of incoming water quality and can easily suffer serious damage to the membranes if they are exposed to the wrong influent.
    The other problem is that even if one does successfully run an RO plant that treats WWTP effluent, nearly all of the contaminants that were in the raw sewage that did not screen out or become sludge are concentrated into the waste stream of the RO plant. That concentrate quantity from fresh water is often about 25% of what went in, so a 1 million gallon per day WWTP effluent that might be okay to discharge or use for irrigation becomes 750,000 gals of drinkable water and 250,000 gallons of water fit for nothing. What do you do with a quarter million gallons of waste concentrate every day? Pump it into a deep well like Plantation, FL and hope it comes up somewhere that does the least harm? I think the seawater RO plants at both Marathon and Key West dump into shallow wells, so hyper-saline water would be surfacing somewhere within a few miles (or feet) of the wells. Fortunately, they operate just for brief periods to exercise them, and the treated water is dumped along with the concentrate. The Marathon RO plant draws its influent water from a shallow well a few feet from the Marathon Yacht Club’s deep boat basin and just over 200 feet from the FKAA on-site sewage system shallow discharge well. And they wonder why the influent has a high coliform count!
    Idiots in authority at the County insisted on siting the Cudjoe WWTP so far out that distribution of irrigation water is prohibitively expensive, in spite of the plant being officially called the “Cudjoe Regional Advanced Wastewater Reclamation Facility”. The misleading name is all part of the intentional public deceit that has served FKAA so well.

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