NORTH KEY LARGO -- Uncertainty continues to surround about 32 homes along County Road 905 as to whether they will be allowed to connect to the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District's sewer system.
At the Dec. 12 Monroe County Commission meeting, county officials were worried that permitting the Key Largo district to install lift stations on the properties would violate the county's comprehensive land-use plan and potentially federal law that prohibits development in areas included in the Coastal Barrier Resources System, in which the 32 homes are situated.
Key Largo Wastewater Board Attorney Ray Giglio told the commission that allowing the 32 homes to connect to the sewer system is the best thing it can do for the environment. Giglio came to the meeting packing excerpts from the county's comprehensive plan, which includes missions to keep nearshore waters clean.
Giglio also echoed the point that sewer district Manager Margaret Blank made before him, that installing the lift stations where homes are currently built would not encourage development.
Also speaking to the County Commission were residents who oppose development on No Name Key, another CBRS zone that has garnered much attention over whether to provide electricity to the island where power poles were installed earlier in the year.
County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said there was no big fuss from the county over environmental issues when the wastewater district was first deciding whether to provide service to the C.R. 905 homes.
"There's been a complete 180," she said.
Speaking to the Free Press last week, Blank said the wastewater district has little to gain by continuing to press the issue.
"There's zero benefit to the district," Blank wrote in an email. "This is for the residents of C.R. 905."
The Florida Keys is under a state mandate to meet advanced wastewater treatment standards by December 2015. If the district cannot provide such service to County Road 905, those homeowners could have to foot the entire bill themselves to install compliant onsite systems.
Blank said the wastewater district initially was not going to service that remote part of Key Largo because of the high costs associated. But, she said, some of the residents there urged the district to consider it.
"It turns out it costs about the same to serve the area as it does to serve it with onsite systems," she said. "Central sewer can provide better treatment at the same cost in that area."
Blank said the centralized system does a much better job of removing pollutants from sewage.
A push to get the C.R. 905 residents involved in the discussion is under way. Blank said a letter will be mailed to those residents this week informing them of the situation.
"At the County Commission meeting last Wednesday, several people who live outside the area spoke against the project," Blank said. "I think the commissioners need to hear from people who are directly affected."
The commissioners, who did not take action on the issue, wanted to make sure that allowing lift stations to be installed would not upset federal officials or violate federal law. Giglio was asked to provide documentation that federal money was not used on any work in the CBRS zone.