FKAA hosts sewer meetings

By Steve Estes

Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority officials will host two informational meetings in the coming two weeks to disseminate information about the future progress of the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System.

Both meetings will be held at the Sugarloaf School beginning at 6 p.m. The first, for residents of Upper Sugarloaf, is slated for Wednesday, May 8 and the second, for residents of Lower Sugarloaf, is slated for Wednesday, May 15.

“Our goal is to let people know the construction schedule for their islands. Tell them when the contractor will be in their neighborhood or on their street and what they can expect during the construction phase,” said Tom Walker, FKAA directing engineer for the project.

There will be information available about what type of system will be going in each neighborhood, whether a gravity line or a low-pressure system, and what will be expected of the homeowner after the lines have been installed.

“We do about a 20-minute presentation, open the floor to questions for a half hour or so, and then we make maps available so residents can see what they can expect in terms of system type and proposed schedule,” said Walker.

Even though the inner island portion of the Cudjoe Regional, covering Upper Sugarloaf to Summerland Keys, has been designed and the contractor is already installing pipe on Cudjoe Key, residents can still make a case for changes, said FKAA Executive Director Kirk Zuelch.

“We have had some interest from neighborhoods in the additional cost to convert the low-pressure system to a gravity system,” said Zuelch. “We have those estimates available, but in most cases it has been a significant increase to do that.”

Monroe County is funding the construction of the system. FKAA is the project manager and the eventual operator of the system.

“If residents want changes, they can go to the Board of County Commissioners and ask for an approved change order for the additional money, or get agreement from everyone in the neighborhood to fund the change themselves,” said Zuelch. “But we are leaving those options on the table.”

Most of the properties in the inner island collection system have already received letters requesting lateral connection location specifics for their lot and also asking for a utility easement that will allow FKAA access to the property to maintain the systems, particularly in the case of the low pressure pumps.

The low-pressure systems are actually installed on private property rather than in the public right-of-way, so FKAA needs an approved easement to perform maintenance work.

“All we’re really asking is that we be allowed to bring the necessary equipment onto the property to perform the work and that the homeowner guarantee that they won’t plant large trees over the pump or lateral sites or build anything that can’t be easily moved,” said Zuelch.

“We don’t expect folks not to landscape, drop pea rock or plant grass. We even expect pavers and lawn ornamentation, but please, no buildings or concrete,” said Zuelch.

FKAA has tried to be receptive to homeowners who have already asked for certain connection points on their lots, said Walker. Anyone who hasn’t yet filled out a connection request form can find one on the FKAA website at under wastewater then Cudjoe Regional.

“We can also talk about these things at the meetings,” said Zuelch.

Also on the website, interested residents can find general guidelines for the permitting process for gravity and low-pressure systems and the steps that will need to be taken once the property owner has received the notice of availability from FKAA for permission to hook into the system and abandon the existing plant.

Those on gravity systems will need county building permits for the lateral lines and hook up and a Department of Health permit for the abandonment of the existing system. Those on low-pressure systems will need an additional electrical permit to install the breaker panel for the pump.

But the FKAA has decided that it will pay homeowners for the extra expense of running the low-pressure pumps.

“We have a calculation we use for the amount of power it takes to run the low-pressure pump and since it’s hooked to the homeowner’s power system, we will credit that amount on the monthly bill,” said Zuelch.

That should be about a dollar or two each month, said Walker. “It takes about the power usage of a 100-watt light bulb for a month.”

Lower Sugarloaf is part of the outer island collection system, which covers that island and Ramrod through Big Pine and though that system is still in design phase, “they are close enough to start that we need to get the information to them,” said Walker.

Upper Sugarloaf residents should start seeing construction in the middle of next year, but Lower Sugarloaf residents could see construction activity this summer, he said.

“The contractor has decided that they will start the work on Lower Sugarloaf,” said Walker.

The remainder of the outer islands should be receiving lateral location request forms and easement requests from FKAA “sometime this summer,” Walker said.

Once those letters have gone out, meetings in the remaining areas of the outer island collection system will be scheduled.

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