the supplicant and one of her many subjects
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Paul, formerly of Key West, now living in the Homestead, Florida area, wrote yesterday:
So… Are Zuelch and Dean for the Gravity system or against it?
(Kirk Zeulch is Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority’s CEO, and before that was its lawyer, Bob Dean is Chairman of Governor Scott’s appointed FKAA Board of Directors.)
I have published several reports, including my own, of them saying they want gravity, not grinder pumps, wherever feasible.
Unless Governor Scott, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, or a court gets the grinder pump fiasco straightened out for the county commissioners, who have lost their minds, have been duped, or on the take, it is on them to get it straightened out. I imagine I will write more about it, probably tomorrow. I have worn it out, and it hardly is the only thing on my plate. I would have written about grinder pumps today, if I had not been loaded up with all the other stuff on my plate.
So the senior FKAA people think a gravity system is the obvious way to go. Independent engineers concur. At the risk of sounding like a student who has not been tracking the months – long evolution of this alleged civil engineering problem with religious devotion: “What, exactly, is the problem?”
What I mean is: If the ‘experts’ all say gravity rules, with a small, minority role for ‘grinders’, why is there an impasse on the County Commission?
Yo, Sloan – I bet I’m not the only one on your ‘local news distribution list’ who’s lost track of exactly why there’s an issue here; if the weight of informed opinion is clearly behind Gravity flow, carefully augmented by a relatively few remote are grinder units…. what’s the issue? Why is this County objective so hard to implement?
Come on, Sloan: Humor your bad students – yea! the worst, the grodiest, amongst us. Why ( in 25,000 words or less) is there not underway , already, the implementation of an optimum design for Monroe County’s Sewers?
Why is this so tough? Can you please recap the evolution of this whole mess and enlighten your readers, many of whom may be working up a list of New Year’s Resolutions right now?
Restate the whole thing in a “nutshell”, please?
I said in my last email why I think there is an impasse on the County Commission … “who seem to have lost their minds, or have been duped, or paid off.”
To that, you can add, “or they had pet projects they wanted to spend the 1% infrastructure sales tax money on instead.”
The county engineer in charge of Cudjoe regional, Kevin Wilson, said about as much at the recent FKAA Board meeting I and about 20 other poopgrinder foes attended. Kevin said something like, Cudjoe regional was fully funded (via cheaper to install grinder pumps), the grinder pump system was sound, and it would be unconscionable not to allow the county commissioners to spend other infrastructure tax dollars on other projects.
I only was gotten involved in poopgrinderville maybe six weeks ago now. I did not follow it much before that. I only know what other people have written, which was copied to me, most of which I published. I am not personally privy to the county commissioners’ minds and motivations, so I offer reasonable explanations of their decision so far on this shitty issue. Saying it another way, if something smells fishy, then something fishy is going on.
The devil is in getting the sordid details to volunteer themselves into the sunshine.
In a nutshell, here is my impression of what happened.
Some years ago, the Keys, unwilling to manage the pollution of the Keys and surrounding waters with human sewerage, were designated an Area of Critical Concern by the Florida Legislature and were given a time certain to get the Keys sewered. Municipalities responded more eagerly than the County Commission, but all governments got state funding, and might get even more. Key West seems fully in compliance. The rest of the Keys are in various stages of becoming compliant.
Not able to get all the funding it needed from Tallahassee, the County Commission put a 1% infrastructure sales tax on the ballot, to raise money for sewering the Keys and fixing old bridges, and other infrastructure needs, as I understand that referendum and tax. The County Commission asked FKKA to come up with a proposal for sewrering the lower Keys, which is below Seven Mile Bridge down to just above Shark Key, I think. That was decided to be called the Cudjoe (for Cudjoe Key) Regional Wastewater District, or something like that.
FKAA came back to the County Commission with a proposal to use low pressure gravity sewer systems wherever feasible, and high pressure grinder pump systems on individual properties only where gravity sewer systems were not feasible, either because the properties were low-lying and gravity would not work, or the properties were remote and it was not cost practical to run gravity lines to those properties.
Gravity lines are dug deeper to create gravity for moving sewerage from properties into street lines, whereas grinder pump lines are dug shallow, because the high pressure pumps move sewerage from homes and other buildings to the street lines. Both systems use pumps to move sewerage along the street lines.
Gravity systems have no moving parts, but for the pumping stations, and last a lot longer and in the long run are cost effective. Gravity systems use far less pumps and are not nearly as vulnerable to power outages, which are common in the Keys and during and after hurricanes can last for days, or weeks. Gravity pumping stations can be gotten quickly back online and working with generators. FKAA has no way to get thousands of grinder pumps back online during power outages.
Over time, grinder pumps wear out, break down, and end up costing more than gravity systems. Also, grinder pumps need to be used ongoing to remain functional. If a resident leaves a home with a grinder pump for a couple of weeks, or months, or longer, when the resident returns, the grinder pump very well might not be working and cannot be fixed and has to be replaced. Lots of lower Keys residents live down here part time, snowbirds they are called.
Over time, grinder pump lines spring leaks, and because of the high pressure in the lines, raw sewerage leaves the lines through the leaks and gets into the ground, and then into the shallow saltwater table, and then into the ocean/bays/lagoons/canals. Grinder pump lines cannot be detected, thus cannot be repaired. That’s the same problem the mandate from Tallahassee was supposed to stop, by getting the Keys off septic systems and cess pits.
Over time, gravity lines also spring leaks, but because they are buried below the saltwater table, the hydrostatic pressure outside the lines is greater than the hydrostatic pressure inside the lines, so the outside salt water infiltrates the lines and the raw sewerage does not bleed out of the lines. Gravity line leaks can be detected and dug down to and repaired.
Well, the County Commission told FKAA its predominantly gravity sewer system plan cost too much and to come back with a cheaper sewer plan for the lower Keys. Instead of telling the County Commission to rethink that, or instead of declining to design what it knew would be an inferior sewer plan for the lower Keys, FKAA, apparently with help (a lot of help, I read several times) from a grinder pump salesman, designed a cheaper sewer plan for the lower Keys, which used lots of grinder pumps on private properties. The County Commission agreed to it, and FKAA started moving ahead.
Enter Walter Drabinski, I think he lives on one of the Sugarloaf Keys. Essentially, he said not over his dead body. He sued the County and FKAA, and got an injunction pending final determination by the local court of who was right. A settlement was reached giving Drabinsky pretty much everything he wanted – use gravity wherever feasible, grinder pumps everywhere else.
The settlement only affected land included in the lawsuit. Drabinsky did not include keys above his “area of critical concern.” No areas above Drabinsky’s asked the court to be allowed to intervene in that lawsuit. So the areas above the land protected by the Drabinski settlement did not get protection and were, basically, facing the same thing Drabinsky faced when he filed suit.
The areas above Drabinski’s area took a long time to get concerned and active. By the time they were getting the lead out, finally, FKAA was well into laying grinder lines in those areas. I have read maybe 900 homes are slated to receive grinders, which should get gravity, but for the County Commission not wanting to pay for it. Banks Prevatt is one of those homeowners who is slated to get a grinder pump. Maybe that’s just homes below Big Pine Key, which has not yet seen much work done by FKAA. Not sure about the total number of homes slated for grinder pumps, which should be on gravity.
By waiting so long to get the lead out, Banks’ anti-grinder camp lost the advantage Drabinski had. When Drabinski filed suit, FKAA had not gotten started good. Not much money had been spent yet. An injunction was easier to get, and a big bond was not required in case Drabinski lost. Because of all the work FKAA already has done in some of Banks’ “area of critical concern,’ a huge bond probably will be required for an injunction to be issued by a local court, pending final determination by the court of who is right.
So far, FKAA has done very little work on Big Pine Key. An injunction lawsuit field by landowners there probably will be similar to Drabinski’s.
Banks’ camp has not yet sued the County and FKAA over what FKAA and the Count are doing on Little Torch Key and below there. I will be surprised to see that lawsuit filed, because of the bond hurdle.
Banks’ camp decided to try the case, instead, in the court of public opinion, which I encouraged and joined in. That’s my area of experience in the Keys. Banks’ Camp has something else up its sleeve, which I will not describe. That will become known soon enough. It might work as well as Drabinski’s lawsuit. It might go nowhere. Time will tell.
I published quite a few emails written by Banks and people in his camp, which Banks got to the County Commissioners, and then also started getting to FKAA Board members and Zeulch. I encouraged them to bring in Florida House of Representatives member Holly Raschein, who lives on Key Largo,
and Governor Rick Scott,
who appointed FKAA’s Board members and at whose leisure they serve. The FKAA Board members work for and are Governor Scott’s stewards to whom he entrusted the Florida Keys and its waters. What his trusted stewards do down here reflects on him up there in Tallahassee.
I don’t think doing something stupid is illegal, but the way this situation smells, my natural distrust of government and public utility boards, formed by attending their meetings and speaking to various issues and observing their responses and later actions, leaves me feeling something is awry in the grinder pump part of sewering the lower Keys, and it looks to me the grinder pump company itself is part of the awry.
From what I have heard, this company, which as an office in Marathon, where two of the five county commissioners live, never has done a sewer project anywhere close to the size of Cudjoe regional; and this grinder pump company never has done a sewer project in the Florida Keys, where grinder pumps are the least desirable from both an environmental standpoint, as well as from a wear and tear and oft-absent property owner (snowbird) standpoint. It just don’t pass the smell test.
Adding to the septic odor is the way some of the county commissioners are reacting to Banks’ camp merely asking for the same treatment Drabinski’s camp received. Commissioner George Neugent,
in whose county commission district (3) the entire Cudjoe regional sewer plan lies, has become hyperreactive, hysterical, condemning, false accusing. I heard from several of Neugent’s constituents that they wrote to him, some wrote more than once, and never hard back from him.
I heard Key Largo’s county commissioner, Sylvia Murphy,
is about as forted up as George Neugent.
Marathon’s other commissioner, David Rice,
sent Banks a report he’d heard from Brian La Pointe, an internationally recognized sea biologist, praising grinder pumps and criticizing gravity systems, which apparently was a misrepresentation on Rice’s part, or a gross misunderstanding between him and La Pointe, or La Pointe didn’t know what he was talking about when he gave Rice his opinion. As far as I know, La Pointe never had anything to do with installing, operating and repairing sewer systems.
More may come to me later, but I think the above is a fair summary of my understanding of this situation, and my opinions based on that understanding.
Below, in the time order received by me day before yesterday and yesterday, are several forwards from Banks Prevatt, who got himself appointed Field Marshall for the remaining areas in the lower Keys not yet sewered, which did not yet run up the white flag and surrender to the County Commission and FKAA.
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
More than one on the commission tout how you listened to the experts. Here is a comment from our expert. Along with the research we are doing, one of our technicians (experts) has drawn this conclusion.
The CRS design has maximized the use of the E-One grinder pumps by using these residential pumps in “neighborhood lift stations” as well as on individual lots.
It occurred to me that the slow pumping rate of the E-1 pump might also create problems in gravity area lift stations.
The typical neighborhood lift station utilizes 2 to 4 E-1 pumps in a 5′ internal diameter manhole/wetwell.
The 5′ manhole has a capacity of 146 gallons per foot of depth.
The average daily (24 hour) flow into the manhole was shown on the permit application at a low of about 6 gpm, so a 12′ reserve capacity manhole would take about 5 hours to fill at that rate. (the rate of fill varies with the number of connections, but 6 gpm was a low number used. There is some additional capacity in surcharging of the gravity piping.)
If all three pumps of a triplex lift station run at once, the discharge rate would be about 33gpm, and it would take 55 minutes to drain the manhole to the pump shut-off point (not counting what comes in during pumping).
The Inner Islands had 14 neighborhood lift stations in the original design, so that is about 15 hours of pumping activity for every 5 hours of filling based on a 24 hour average flow. Of course, flows will be higher and the fill rate faster during waking hours, so more manpower and equipment are required to pump at a faster rate.
In a widespread power outage, what are the chances that FKAA can keep up with pumping out the neighborhood lift stations with generators at that rate? Bear in mind that they also have several hundred individual pump stations that are in danger of overflowing at the same time.
Blind copy 100+
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2013 21:33:45 -0500
Subject: Fwd: Forward photos and text
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
This is unsolicited and from another constituent hiding in the shadows afraid of the torches and pitchforks that might await them it they voice a public opinion.
Blind copy to 100+
Sent: 12/15/2013 9:07:09 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: Fwd: Forward photos and text
Banks, This came to me from another person that would prefer to remain anonymous. Seems I’m everyones messenger!
I’m going to send several satellite maps with pertinent roads labeled and different map sizes used for perspective. All distances were first measured using a car odometer and checked for accuracy on Google Earth. All photos on Cayman Road were taken this morning.
Look at the maps!!! Cayman Road and Jamaica Road are separated from the main subdivision by 0.35 miles of undeveloped land.
There are only 2 houses on Cayman Road (2 vacant lots are for sale, and a cleared lot with piles of gravel is present on the far east end of the road), yet, as shown by the sewer cover in the photo, a gravity sewer system will be installed there (pipes have already been installed — see photo of Cayman Road). More, pipes were laid along the entire 0.25 miles for Cayman Road past the easternmost house and extending past all the vacant lots to the last vacant lot on the road.
There are 22 houses on Jamiaca Road, and pipes for a gravity sewer system have been installed there, too, despite its “remoteness” from the main subdivision.
We (grinder pump victims (are being told that our homes collectively are too few or too remote to qualify for a a gravity sewer system, and yet brazenly that reason was blatantly contradicted at Cayman Road — AGAIN 2 houses yet a gravity sewer line installed.
Port Pine Heights (Big Pine) will be getting a gravity system with pipes extending nearly 4 miles along Key Deer Boulevard. Enroute, the sewer would pass 2 subdivisions slated for grinder pumps –Pine Hts.– behind the Blue Hole, and Koehn Subdivision — and are a similar distance from that main pipe as Cayman and Jamaica Rd. are from the main subdivision. There are also far more houses in each of these subdivisions than on Cayman and Jamaicia Roads.
Something smells here — pardon the pun.
I address only these 2 BPK subdivisions because I live in one and know the other well. The principle obviously applies to all subdivisions which are being forced to install grinder pumps. — and extend to other neighborhoods that are being forced t.
A concerned resident
[I, Sloan, did not include the satellite photos, some of which were quite large and would have taken a page each.]
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2013 22:01:07 -0500
Subject: Fwd: A Qestion
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
I agree. If anyone listened to experts and those experts did not reference the Cape Coral Engineering Study, I would be suspect of those experts.
You would think the Keys would be the logical recipient of the most sophisticated system money could buy rather than a bastardized system solicited by a typical government low bidder.
From: To: Bgprevatt@________
Sent: 12/26/2013 11:17:31 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: Re: A Qestion
It is a pity that nobody listened to the experts that thoroughly evaluated the possibility of grinders in other areas and rejected them. The Greeley and Hanson engineering study for Cape Coral ( http://www.news-press.com/assets/pdf/A476189611.PDF ) was very thorough and ranked a system based on grinder pumps right next to septic tanks for environmental undesirability and worst of all systems for comparative cost, reliability, and homeowner satisfaction. Who would want, consider, or even tolerate a system like that?
FKAA and Matthews Consulting listened to the grinder pump salesman to gain their expertise. How many other successful progressive cavity grinder LPS systems of this complexity and magnitude have they designed or operated? Oh, none? Of any size? And there isn’t one? In the world? That’s negligible experience our “experts” have behind this big experiment. Without a reliable sewer system, our homes will be worthless. It is not about the money. Vacuum sewers might very well cost less than a grinder LPS (because pits are shared), but were not even considered thanks to the grinder salesman’s “Decision Tree” that would have also ruled out vacuum for Baypoint and Marathon. Fortunately, Marathon had conscientious engineers.
I just hope the BOCC comes to its senses and stops this blunder now.
Paul replied to all of the above:
Wow. Thank you for that thorough and pronto Sewer summary.
What I take from it, bottom line, is that the County Commission was well advised from the outset by FKAA and others but they refused to act in the best interests of Monroe County people because the perceived expense of a Gravity System was, somehow, just too much for them.
It is axiomatic that clean water is necessary both for the health of Keys island residents and also for the long term success of its main income provider, may it’s name always be hallowed, Tourism.
We know that few if any adult residents of Monroe need to be educated about the tangible benefits of pure water here. It’s one of the main reasons they pay so much to live here. Certainly, the Commissioners get that, but they’re still behaving with tremendous shortsightedness now. Choosing between A) the original FKAA approved model – even if it means another one cent addition to the bed tax – or B) a brand spanking new, deficient sewer system, should be easy. Yet they appear to be colossally obtuse, as a group at least, on this Major Keys Item.
Negotiating a sufficient, doable bond to insure Keys water should already have been preferred by Commissioners over the installation of a cheaper unsatisfactory system.
They seem, however, to be fog bound and mumbling. Correct me if I’m wrong, Sloan, but Water Quality, Traffic and Affordable Housing are still the three top items on any MC politician’s ‘To Do’ list, no? Why then, the patent stupidity here, on this monster item? They are not five stupid or mean spirited people.
I can only conclude that they’re not speaking, or not able to speak, their own minds. In this case, “the usual suspects”, I think, would be the County’s biggest taxpayers: the hoteliers and the developers. All of them are excruciatingly tight with a buck and conveniently located, as always, just slightly “out of frame”.
It’s amazing, too, that the State and the Feds have made no useful contribution to the issue’s happy outcome. They’ll be the first ones to complain when the grinders malfunction. They’re wonderful at proclaiming lofty goals but not much good at helping those who are Federally Afflicted offset the real world expenses needed to achieve their Federal Mandates. We are wrapped in National Wildlife Refuges, yet they remain serenely All demand, No contribution.
This whole thing, then, must belong squarely in the five elected laps on the County Commission. And they’re now headed down the road to Perdition… at taxpayers expense. If water quality is important everywhere, in the Florida Keys it’s Paramount.
Someday, this hundred mile Sewer in Paradise will have to be redone properly, and again, at taxpayer expense.
Thanks, Sloan. Your letter was clear, helpful and right on time.
I think they wanted a cheaper system, because they wanted to buy other things than the best sewer system for Cudjoe Regional. Drabinsky proved what the county commissioners wanted to install was not the best system, and that’s why he got what he wanted, gravity wherever feasible. I hate to say it, but it looks to me the County Commission warped into bureaucrats, or worse, after being elected to be good stewards of the fragile Florida Keys environment..
I dunno, Paul. None of the five commissioners ever faced a serious challenge at the polls. Maybe if they had, you and I would not have had this conversation today.
Someone told me yesterday of a lower Keys woman, whom I know only barely, who has said she will run for Negent’s seat in 2014. Someone told me she told the alleged candidate that there is one person, and only one person, she needs to get with and learn what she needs to know, and before she meets that one person, she needs to go to www.goodmorningfloridakeys.com and read everything he posted there about grinder pumps.
The other really big issue facing the County Commission, and all of the Keys right now, is 500 polluted canals, which is where the 1% infrastructure sales tax should go after the Keys are correctly sewered. As you said, water quality is number 1 priority down here.
Affordable housing, what’s that? The only true affordable housing in the Keys is trailer parks, and at the last county commission meeting, the commissioners voted 5-0 to let Pritam Singh transfer building rights (ROGOs) from 3 lower Keys trailer parks he bought, or would buy, so he can build an upscale development on Stock Island with those trailer park building rights. He can’t raise rents in the trailer parks, but in seven years, he can make the trailer people leave and get rid of the trailers, if any are left behind, and build affordable housing, which won’t help the trailer people, because they will be gone by the time the affordable housing is built, and most likely they would not be able to afford the affordable housing.
As for traffic, good luck doing anything about that. The only way to stop traffic from getting worse is to halt all new development in the Keys, which was my mantra when I ran against George Neugent in 2006. At one candidate forum, George said he feared I would bankrupt the county, if I was elected instead of him. He won, the real estate market tanked, real estate values plunged, mortgages exceeded the value of the homes securing the mortgages, mass foreclosures and short sales, thousands of homes for sale in the Keys, hardly any selling, homeowners walking away from their homes now worth considerably less than what they had paid for them.
As home values plunged, the county tax base plunged, real estate tax revenues plunged; the county came close to bankruptcy. Now, with a slight recovery in real estate values, the county commission is approving new developments and, apparently, letting trailer parks provide the building rights.
George blew up the other day over a Little Torch Key homeowner leaning on George a bit about grinder pumps, which prompted George to say he was going back on his 2010 campaign promise not to run again for county commission (his campaign slogan in 2010 was, “Promises Made, Promises Kept”) . I told the angels that they ought to move me back up there and have me have another go at George. But right after that, I think I got a sign that the angels have something else in mind for me in 2014, so …
Time will tell, it always does …
Monroe County’s (Florida Keys, mostly) Florida House of Representative Holly Raschein
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I replied, but dreams last night said it wasn’t the reply the angels wanted. They wanted something more biblical, I suppose because Governor Scott is a devout Christian. So I leave for Holly to share the more Sloan-like email I sent to her. I know her somewhat, from the 2010 campaign trail and numerous candidate forums. We had some personal conversations. She knows I’m a wing nut, but because this also involves Governor Scott, maybe this below is what I should have written.
Hi, Holly -
Don’t know what this is about; I never unsubscribed.
I do hope, however, that you are talking with Governor Scott about what his trusted Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority Board stewards are doing to the lower Florida Keys environment, and to lower Keys residents in the Cudjoe Regional Sewer District, about which I have now published maybe a dozen and a half times at www.goodmorningfloridakeys.com, and about which I see a great deal of jabbering on www.bigpinekey.com‘s popular Coconut Telegraph.
If you want votes from the lower Keys this next year, Holly, it will be a good idea for you to do all you can to get Governor Scott’s stewards at FKAA to do what he appointed them to do down here: provide us with good drinking water and protect our fragile fragile environment from human poop.
P.S. In a little while, it’s 8:30 a.m., say in a hour, there will be a different post today at www.goodmorningkeywest.com, which you should be able to reach by clicking on that link today, and by clicking on this link at anytime: