Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Sunday, July 21, 2013
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Group: Change sewer plans
Residents don't rule out lawsuit

A group of residents has not ruled out filing a lawsuit to stop grinder pumps and a low-pressure sewer system from being installed as part of multimillion-dollar Lower Keys wastewater project.

The residents have banded together under the name "The Sir Isaac Newton Coalition." They want the county and Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority to use a gravity sewage pumping system that does not require the use of electricity, and named their group after the man who came up with the first law of gravity, said Walt Drabinski, a founder of the group.

The group comprises retired engineers, accountants and attorneys from Sugarloaf and Cudjoe keys, he said.

"We have 15 to 20 very talented people who are capable of doing research," Drabinski said.

Group members have reviewed "thousands of emails, hundreds of documents and thousands of pages of contracts," for the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, he added.

The group is looking at several options, which include filing a lawsuit to stop the grinder pumps and low-pressure systems from being installed.

Drabinski and the leaders of the Cudjoe Gardens and Sugarloaf Key homeowners associations have spoken at the last two County Commission meetings to lobby the commissioners to force the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority to change the plans to reduce the number of grinder pumps and low-pressure systems.

Last month, County Commissioner Heather Carruthers unsuccessfully lobbied the commission to have an independent engineering firm review the plans for the $150 million central sewer project, to see if it was the best and most cost-effective method.

Drabinski claims the county risks losing $30 million in "State Revolving Loan Funds," because the documents it used to receive the loans -- made available to the public -- downplay the use of grinder pumps and state that "gravity systems would be used in densely populated areas."

The county began submitting the loan documentation in 2011.

Aqueduct Authority Executive Director Kirk Zuelch contended that detailed plans dating back to 2009 show the use of low-pressure systems in more densely populated areas.

If the plan is to be changed, it must be done soon. The Aqueduct Authority has signed contracts and begun work on the Cudjoe Regional project, and expects to start work on the low-pressure systems in Cudjoe, Summerland and Sugarloaf keys.


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