Big Coppitt – In Trouble Again

houstonUpdate:  I notice I’m getting a lot of hits on this post.  So I want to let people know where they can find the documents I’m looking at.  Here’s a link to FDEP’s Oculus website.  Click on “Public Oculus Login”.  Select “Wastewater” from the top menu titled “Catalog”.  Select “Discovery_Compliance” from the bottom menu titled “Profile”.  To the right where it says “Facility-site ID”, click the “…” button.  From there you can search for the wastewater treatment plant you are interested in.  I search by name and select the one I want from a list.  Then press the search button and all available documents will show up.

Update Part 2:   A little birdy informed that the FKAA posts the sampling results in accordance with the settlement agreement.  Mystery solved.

I saw this letter over at KeysNews.com (the Citizen).  Apparently, the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) posts surface water sampling data in the vicinity of the Cudjoe Regional shallow wells on their website.  How transparent of them!

Immediate question is why would the FKAA – the same outfit that lied to the press about Toppino’s subcontract entanglements, the same outfit that’s been hiding Big Coppitt’s performance troubles for years, the same outfit who let Bob Dean’s residency issue slide down the memory hole – openly post these reports online?  I can only assume that the good folks of Cudjoe Regional pressured them into it.  I don’t see the FKAA manning up and doing this on their own.

According to the letter, the sample results indicate that the number of coliform colonies is repeatedly “too many to count”.  Is that because of the shallow wells or is it, as FKAA’s Julie Cheon claims, because of deer and bird poop?  It’s easy to blame the deer  I guess.  They won’t argue back.  The birds might though.

When I get a scrap of time, I’ll look at Florida International University’s (FIU’s) sampling data and see if water quality has improved any since Cudjoe Regional began operating.  I took a look at the data for Key Largo’s plant, and the results showed that water quality improved significantly since the plant began operation.  That’s what you’d hope and expect to see.  Are the Lower Keys seeing similar improvements?

Let’s circle back to the topic of this post:  Big Coppitt.  Folks in the Lower Keys have reason to be concerned, and I am glad they are watch-dogging the FKAA so closely.  If the FKAA is failing to properly run the Big Coppitt plant, doesn’t it make sense that they might struggle with the Cudjoe Regional plant as well?

As far as I can tell, Cudjoe Regional hasn’t had it’s first compliance inspection yet, but Big Coppitt has once again drawn the attention of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for failing to meet effluent quality requirements since their last clean inspection in May 2015.  FKAA’s Duck Key plant is having compliance issues as well.

Key Largo’s last compliance inspection report was clean.  And it looks like the latest compliance inspection reports for all of Marathon’s plants are clean, too.  Same for the Key West Resort Utilities plant on Stock Island.  Strangely enough FKAA’s Bay Point plant, which is served by a “terrible, awful, no-good” vacuum system is compliant.  Key West’s plant also appears to be performing very well.

I should point out that none of these systems are problem-free.  There are incident reports associated with each of the compliant plants.  It is normal to have the occasional issue.  But there are no incident reports in Big Coppitt’s file, which is odd, especially considering the ongoing compliance issues at the plant.  Not one incident reported since the plant began operating in 2009 or so.

So what’s happening at Big Coppitt?  Why have the compliance problems been going on for so long?  Why doesn’t the FKAA board talk about it?  Do they plan to fix it or will they continue to sweep it under the rug?  Will Cudjoe Regional go on to have similar problems?  If so, will the FKAA inform the public and take action to correct it?

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