Apr 04
Legal action next for pump opponents

The gravity versus grinder pump fight is headed to court.

Dump the Pumps, a grassroots organization formed to fight against the placement of low-pressure grinder pumps in private yards as part of the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, will be taking its battle to the courts in the very near future.

That follows on the heels of a state Department of Environmental Protection review that took place over the last two months and ended with the determination that the complaints filed by the group concerning the permits DEP issued to the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority were insufficient.

“The Department…is in receipt of a…draft complaint…against the Department and Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority and has with…legal representative and FKAA representatives to discuss and resolve the maters referenced in your complaint. Regarding the various allegations, the Department has the following comments:

“The Department has reviewed the assertions made in your complaint and finds insufficient grounds upon which to take action against FKAA concerning the specific allegations,” stated the one-page letter from DEP.

“There’s no surprise there,” said Dump the Pumps President Banks Prevatt, a Little Torch Key homeowner who is slated to receive a grinder pump to connect him to the Cudjoe Regional.

“DEP is pretty autonomous in its ability to issue permits and doesn’t like to be questioned. They were part of the arrangement that allowed the county to borrow $90 million for construction of the Cudjoe Regional and the money flow makes it almost impossible for them to come up with any other answer,” said Prevatt.

Although the group held out hope that the outcome would be different, it has continued setting the stage for a coming legal battle.

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Mar 28
Anti-pump group seeks federal aid in battle

 Both sides in the gravity versus grinder battle now playing out in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System service area are waiting on news from the state Department of Environmental Protection concerning complaints filed by the grassroots group Dump the Pumps.

The group, fighting to have as many low-pressure grinder pumps as possible eliminated from the service area, which will ultimately serve everyone between Lower Sugarloaf Key and Big Pine Key, has filed appeals to the DEP permits issued to the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, eventual operators of the system, claiming that the pumps don’t meet DEP specs for a public sewer system.

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Mar 28
Message: Don’t feed the deer

ducating residents and visitors about the hazards of feeding Key Deer was surprisingly the top concern of a group of local residents and National Key Deer Refuge personnel recently during a series of meetings dealing with strategies to protect the deer herd on Big Pine Key going forward.

The group also maintained that enforcement of feeding laws needs to be more of a priority for refuge staff.

The group met three times in the last few months to come up with ways for the refuge to enhance its Key Deer recovery plan in the coming years.

Officials have said that the deer are at or above carrying capacity on the core islands of Big Pine and No Name Keys, though have never put an updated number on the herd size.

Part of the reason they claim that the herd might be over carrying capacity is that the deer get supplemental feeding from humans in the area.

“And that’s not good for the deer,” said Nancy Finley, refuge manager.

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Mar 21
Father Tony Mullane decides to retire

It was 26 years ago when the self-described “hippie priest” from Key West returned from an 18-month “extended walkabout” and settled into St. Peter Church on Big Pine Key.

Where Father Tony Mullane has remained.

The venerable priest who has been an icon in the Lower Keys for more than 35 years has received permission from the Archdiocese to finally hang up his cloth and retire from St. Peter Church to pursue…”not sure.”

Playing lots more golf and doing some traveling might be part of the future plans.

“You don’t plan life. It plans for you. Whatever I might plan can always be derailed by something else that takes priority,” said Mullane.

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Mar 21
Engineers say methane not an issue with pump

Several hundred property owners in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater Treatment District service area continue plans to take legal action in an attempt to stop the installation of low-pressure grinder pumps on about 1,300 parcels.

Those property owners are represented by a grass roots group calling itself Dump the Pumps and are currently awaiting a review from the state Department of Environmental Protection of the permits already issued to the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority for work on several of the islands inside the service area, an area that encompasses everything from Lower Sugarloaf Key to Big Pine Key.

DEP officials said they would have answers to the Dump the Pump complaints about the planned central wastewater collection system by March 31 and the group agreed to hold off on any legal confrontations until those answers arrive.

 One of the complaints filed by the group was that the pumps to be installed on private property aren’t explosion proof as a result of build-up of methane gas from decomposing effluent remaining in the pump’s storage well between periods of use.

Many of the pumps are slated to be installed on properties where part-time residents own the home and the property isn’t rented over the long term. The part time residents will be gone six to eight months, possibly leaving effluent or other organic waste in the pump well that could turn into methane gas over time.

Some residents where the pumps have already been installed have voiced concern that there is no fitting on the pump well itself to allow for control of methane and that a build up of the gas in the pump well could be triggered to explosion level when the pump is restarted after the absence.

That possibility has been dealt with in the design of the pump wells, says Tom Walker, project engineer for the Cudjoe Regional system at FKAA.

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Mar 14
Grinder opposition group delays lawsuit

A meeting late last week between the state Department of Environmental Protection and a local grassroots group fighting against the installation of low-pressure grinder pumps convinced the organization not to pursue legal action right now.

Dump the Pumps  has been fighting against the installation of grinder pumps in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System service area for months now, and was prepared to file legal action against the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority and DEP last week before the state agency agreed to a meeting to listen first hand to the group’s concerns.

Through legal action, Dump the Pumps had hoped to convince DEP to halt any further installation of grinder pumps or lines servicing them until the state agency had fully reviewed the allegations against the issuance of the permits to FKAA.

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Mar 14
Bug kill plan out for comment

How mosquitoes get killed on Big Pine and No Name Keys could change in the very near future.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District hasn’t been able to spray insecticide designed to kill adult mosquitoes on the two islands for more than eight months because of fears that the fogger used by the district will also kill a couple of endangered butterflies that call the islands home.

The district had been on a yearly special use permit from the National Key Deer Refuge with little drama during renewals, but with the listing of the Bartram’s scrub hairstreak and Florida Leafwing butterflies as endangered species, the refuge didn’t renew the permit in June last year.

That forced both sides to come to the table to work on a long-range plan to address the deaths of nuisance mosquitoes on federal lands.

Earlier this week, the refuge released its environmental assessment of the adult mosquito killing plan put forth by the district. And that plan calls for a series of methods to be used to knock off the pesky insects.

But the plan also decreases the area that can be treated with large-scale fogging by the district and changes the parameters under which even tightly-controlled spraying can be conducted.

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Mar 07
Pump opponents to be disobedient
State DEP/Dump the Pumps stage meeting over battle

A Lower Keys group that is staunchly opposed to the use of low-pressure grinder pumps  has agreed that it is time to move into the minor civil disobedience phase of their battle as they concurrently prepare for a legal battle over the issue.

There are approximately 1,300 properties remaining in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System that are slated to be served by grinder pumps on private property that hook into the central collection system at the street.

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State DEP/Dump the Pumps stage meeting over battle’

Mar 07
State says hands off gun range

Controversy over an active back yard shooting range in Eden Pines on Big Pine Key continues to heat up following an affirmation from the State Attorney General that local officials are powerless to affect the activity.

The Monroe Board of County Commissioners, concerned that the practice could become more widespread than just the single active range at the home of Doug Varrier in Eden Pines, had asked County Attorney Bob Shillinger to seek an Attorney General’s opinion to clarify if there is indeed nothing that can be done locally to at least regulate home-made shooting ranges.

In answer to that, State Attorney General Pam Bondi responded with a 2011 AG opinion that stipulated exactly what commissioners had been told from the outset…their hands are tied. And not only are they tied, they are handcuffed in that any attempt to regulate private gun ranges could get them removed from office as well as possible civil or criminal penalties.

“The (AG) opinion came back like I predicted it would,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay.

He said he had predicted after reading the current law on the books, as well as various Legislative updates since its passage in 1998, that neither his office nor the county commission would be able to do anything to “curb, stop or regulate,” private property gun ranges.

“But as we have always had, there is a concern for public safety in this issue,” said Ramsay.

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Feb 28
House flood proposition does little for Monroe

The US House of Representatives was slated to vote Thursday on legislative changes to the Biggert-Waters Act that would reportedly ease the near-disastrous premium hikes being faced by Monroe County property owners.

Biggert-Waters was passed into law in 2012 supposedly to render the National Flood Insurance Program solvent again after monstrous hits from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey left the program more than $17 billion in debt.

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