ISLAMORADA -- The village has agreed to reexamine plans to lay a sewer line directly underneath the excavated coral rock channel through which Theater of the Sea pumps seawater in and out of its marine life lagoons.
However, the brouhaha, which on Dec. 20 led the town to tell sewer contractor Layne to cease piping below the Windley Key attraction, has yet to be resolved.
Theater of the Sea staffers met with village officials, Layne managers and Islamorada's lead engineering consultant last Thursday morning in an hour-long discussion that both parties described as constructive, though indecisive.
"It was wonderful to finally meet with the right people and lay out our concerns," said Theater of the Sea curator Beverly Osborne.
After the meeting, village engineering consultant Tom Brzezinski said work will remain halted while the town considers alternative piping routes and also double checks whether the current plan is, in fact, safe for Theater of the Sea's eight dolphins, five sea lions and the plethora of other marine life that lives in its lagoons. He said he hopes the stoppage will end as soon as this week.
Layne, which is known locally as Reynolds Water Islamorada, has put the village on notice that it will seek compensation for the delays, records show.
The conflict began on Dec. 20, when members of the Theater of the Sea staff stood in the Layne construction zone in order to prevent the company from trenching under the marine attraction.
In an email to the village that day, Layne's local manager Wes Self called the protesters "rogue members of the public." But the village took the objections seriously. Brzezinski confirmed the stop-work order that morning.
Theater of the Sea's concern is two-fold. The sewer line is slated to run 6 to 8 feet below the coral rock channel through which the park pumps 6,500 gallons of water per minute between the Atlantic Ocean and its lagoons. Osborne said that park veterinarian Michael Renner has expressed strong concerns that as the line is drilled pathogens could be released from the earth and then filter through the porous coral to the channel. The park is also worried about the possibility of a completed sewer line bursting. They have recommended that the village reroute the line to run closer to the Overseas Highway.
"I know our vet told us there is nothing anyone can say that will make him comfortable with digging through porous coral rock which can leach," Osborne said.
Brzezinski said the village will examine the feasibility of rerouting the line, including potentially laying it above Theater of the Sea's cement-covered channel. But the town hasn't abandoned its current plan.
"We're looking at other options," he said.