KEY LARGO -- The first major break in Key Largo's sewer system occurred late last month when crews installing Islamorada's sewer pipeline struck an operating pipe from Key Largo's system.
"At this point, we fixed it and we're paying for it," said Key Largo Wastewater District Manager Margaret Blank.
She estimates the cost of the repair to the 12-inch pipe to be about $6,000.
There were no odor complaints, although Blank said it probably wasn't a pleasant smell near the break.
The break occurred around 10 a.m. June 28 and was fixed that same day by 7:30 p.m.
Drawings provided by the district to Islamorada's crews showed the pipe about 6 feet from where it actually was, which could have led to the break, Blank explained. That likelihood is one reason why the Key Largo district so far is paying for the repair.
The village has been installing its own pipeline to Key Largo's main plant, where the district will treat Islamorada's sewage under contract.
The main area affected by the ruptured pipe was Tavernier Towne Center. Customers there would not have noticed any difference in service, Blank said, because the district routed three pumper trucks to the lift stations on the lower part of the island to manually pump out sewage. This action came at the recommendation of an inspector, who was monitoring the stations, she said.
"Everything went as well as could be expected," Blank said.
The pipe, which was located in the median of the highway at mile marker 94.5, was encased in rock about 5 feet underground and required crews to employ jackhammers to get to it to make repairs. Matters could have been worse if the pipe was inoperable for 24 to 36 hours.
Earlier this year, the district was asked to cover additional costs incurred by the Florida Department of Transportation after the road agency had to redesign plans for a drainage project. Drawings the district provided to FDOT showing the locations of underground pipes were not accurate.
As for the Islamorada crew that struck the pipe last month, little is being said. For days, village officials were unable to comment on the incident.
Reached by phone last week, Layne's Communication Director Jennifer Miller said she was not aware of the break. Layne is responsible for overseeing the village pipeline's installation. Richard Crow, the project's construction manager, told the Free Press he was not allowed to speak directly to the media due to a directive from the village.
Meanwhile, Greg Tindle, the village's spokesman for the sewer project, was on vacation last week and when reached said the village paid to have the ruptured pipe fixed, which contradicts Blank's comments.
Layne officials were silenced by the village earlier this spring after a Free Press report outlined FDOT concerns that the village would not meet a pipeline installation deadline so that a scheduled FDOT project could begin.