Remember safety during construction

By Steve Estes

Whatever decision gets made on what properties in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System service area get converted from low-pressure grinder pump to gravity pipes does not affect the actual development of the project from a construction standpoint.

There are about 1,700 properties still remaining on the planned grinder pump portion of the Cudjoe Regional project which spans from Lower Sugarloaf Key to Big Pine Key. The Board of County Commissioners is expected to convert at least some of those to gravity pipes during a special meeting Friday in Key West.

And while all of this is going on, there are three contractors busily installing pipes of some kind, or building a new treatment, in various areas throughout the Lower Keys.

While county officials and officials from the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority focus their efforts on the gravity versus grinder issue, neighborhoods are beginning to feel the impacts of large equipment doing what musty be done….laying pipes in the ground.

We understand that the final configuration of the collection system for the Lower Keys will be vitally important to many in future years. That final configuration deserves long and serious consideration.

But what is happening right now, today, in neighborhoods allover the Lower Keys also deserves long and serious consideration.

We have been inundated with calls and emails from local residents who have, shall we say, issues, with the ongoing construction.

And what type of pipe going in the ground isn’t the primary issue.

People are concerned with a perceived lack of attention being paid to safety concerns while some serious construction efforts are underway.

They are also concerned with a perceived lack of common courtesy being paid to the surrounding homeowners while the construction proceeds at near breakneck pace.

Already we have heard reports of open trenches being left that way at the end of the work day for the crews, sometimes with a cone delineating an open hole, sometimes with a metal cap over the hole, and sometimes with freshly filled holes and unpacked fill.

We all realize that a construction project of this magnitude will create some hardship on the adjacent property owners. And we have all accepted that.

But we expect standard safety precautions to be taken.

Some of the streets where work is taking place are narrow. Crews directing traffic must ensure that even large vehicles can safely traverse the area without driving into an open trench. That problem promises to get worse as crews start on Big Pine where there are streets 20 feet in width or less with no appreciable shoulder.

Equipment left on scene overnight must be safely out of any remaining travel lanes.

Any open trenches must be covered and adequately marked when work crews are not on scene. There can never be too many safety cones alerting drivers to an impending hazard.

Safety concerns thus far addressed with contractors seem to have been rapidly addressed in those locations, but they also seem to crop up again at a different location.

And that is unacceptable.

So it is beholden on FKAA officials, who are the de facto general contractors on this massive job, to have safety inspectors out at all hours to make sure that something we all acknowledge must be done is done without the potential for tragedy brought about by inattention to simple safety concerns.

We would also ask that FKAA officials put some work-hour limits on the contractors.

We’ve had reports of crews still on the job with noisy, dust-belching equipment until well after nightfall, even after a time when parents normally are putting children down for the night.

The noise and dust from this construction job isn’t conducive to uninterrupted sleep in the early night hours for school-age children.

On the flip side, a 7 a.m. start time doesn’t do much for the sleeping habits of the many in our population who work nights in the hospitality industry.

This is a necessary project but it can be conducted in a much safer, much more resident friendly manner.

And it should be.

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