by Mark Songer on behalf of the Board of Directors of LAST STAND ……………………………………………………………………………………
Last Stand commends FKAA Executive Director Kirk Zuelch for agreeing to urge funding for the study to confirm or to rule-out the hydraulic connection between the shallow injection wells discharge at the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater Plant and surface waters. We also commend the FKAA Board of Directors and the Monroe County Commissioners for recognizing the need and funding deep well disposal.
Dr. Henry Briceno’s April 2015 report clearly states there is convincing evidence that freshwater injected to shallow wells at 420 gallons per minute readily migrates upward then laterally to the unconfined shallow aquifer and eventually to surface waters. The test data indicate high velocity underground flow beneath the abandoned landfill adjacent to the plant.
There is a reasonable risk that even the low flows from the start up of the Cudjoe plant will result in treated water disturbing and distributing toxic material from the abandoned landfill into surface water, the surrounding wetlands and near shore waters.
Last Stand is urging further testing before the Cudjoe plant is started to answer the question: will injected treated water at low flows cause the release of hazardous materials from the abandoned landfill?
An early draft of Dr. Briceno’s proposal for a Water Quality study included two objectives:
1. Is the injected wastewater seeping to the surface?
2. If injected wastewater reaches the surface, will it adversely impact surface water quality?
Dr. Briceno has answered the first question. Injected sewage effluent percolates up in the immediate area. We know that various harmful pollutants remain in wastewater, even after Advanced Wastewater Treatment, but in the case of the Cudjoe Regional plant, we also know the surrounding land is saturated with contaminants from over 40 years of use as a dump and then an unlined landfill. The question remains, “Is it safe to use shallow wells during the first two years of plant operation?”
Unfortunately, the second objective was either not included in the final version of Dr. Briceno’s study or it was not completed before the study was terminated. Last Stand believes an answer to the question of how sequestered land fill contaminants respond to shallow well flushing is absolutely necessary before these shallow wells are put into operation.
Monroe County and FKAA officials chose to locate the new regional wastewater plant within a landfill site. They decided to build the system with shallow injection wells. It is now time for our local officials to acknowledge the proximity of these shallow wells to the decades-old accumulation of contaminants and to provide county residents the assurance that these contaminants will not be flushed into Lower Keys backcountry waters and the sanctuary.