Here’s an interesting one. At KeysNews.com there’s an article titled “Sewer Utility Seeks Damages“. Apparently, Key West Resort Utilities is suing Last Stand, an environmental group in the Lower Keys for $471,438 to cover legal fees and court costs. Last Stand sued Key West Resort Utilities over the use of shallow wells at their plant on Stock Island.
Bart Smith, an attorney for the utility, has filed a motion asking the hearing judge to award the utility $471,438 in legal costs. Smith argued that Last Stand initiated this proceeding in order to “express its distaste for the regulations” in which the DEP issued the permits and “not on the basis of KWRU’s failure to provide reasonable assurance required for issuance of the permits,” Smith wrote in his motion for sanctions.
It will be interesting to see what happens with this. KWRU’s position seems to be that they followed FDEP’s rules, therefore, Last Stand has no business dragging them into it. The issue is really between FDEP and Last Stand because Last Stand does not agree with FDEP’s rule on shallow wells. KWRU is caught in the cross-fire and shouldn’t be a party to this.
Here’s why I’m somewhat sympathetic to KWRU:
KW Resort Utilities has incurred fees and costs totaling $471,438.32 to date, Smith said.
“KWRU is currently involved in a rate proceeding which requests the totality of these fees be recovered from the rate payers within its service area, none of which ratepayers are members of Last Stand,” Smith wrote. “Halloran does not own real property within KWRU’s service area, and will not incur an increase in rates due to his appeal. The ratepayers who will otherwise bear the cost of this action are the working people and businesses of Stock Island. Non-ratepayers, Last Stand and Halloran, chose to needlessly increase the cost of the issuance of the permit through their frivolous petition which instituted this case.”
At the end of the day, it’s the KWRU rate-payers who must pay the legal fees. We’re talking about Stock Island here – the lowest median household income in the Keys. It’s impossible to say whether this lawsuit was frivolous or not based on the newspaper article. I guess I’ll find out when the legal action runs its course.
According to annual reuse reports I found in FDEP’s Oculus database, the KWRU wastewater treatment plant is permitted to treat 499,000 gallons per day and diverts about 200,000 of that to the reuse system on average. The KWRU plant is being expanded to treat 849,000 gallons per day. The reuse system is being expanded as well. Not only will it serve the Key West golf course and the Monroe County detention center, it will now also provide irrigation for the Florida Keys Community College (FKCC) ball fields. [By the way, I also checked the Discovery/Compliance section. Everything looks good. KWRU has been behaving itself.]
I’ll be following this story with interest.