March 13, 2019

UPPER KEYS — Back-to-back breaks in a wastewater pipe running through Tavernier clogged northbound U.S. 1 traffic for about 30 straight hours last week.

Contractors working with the village of Islamorada spent about 12 hours on March 5 to unearth and replace one 20-foot section of the “force main,” a pressurized PVC pipe about 18 inches in diameter, north of Burton Drive at mile marker 92.7.

Contributed
Crews from J.A. LaRocco Enterprise and the village of Islamorada replace a 20-foot section of the main sewer line running to the Key Largo wastewater treatment plant. Two breaks occurred near mile marker 92.7 that closed one lane of U.S. 1 in Tavernier and slowed northbound traffic March 5 and 6.

When the system was re-pressurized around 10 p.m. March 5, a second section of pipe just south of Burton Drive failed. The wastewater pipe is buried about 5 to 6 feet deep in the affected area.

“Then we had to fix it again a second time,” said Brian Conover, co-owner and job superintendent for repair contractor LaRocco Enterprise. Both of the damaged pipe sections had splits about 15-feet-long on the bottom, he said.

“There are so many possibilities, I could not even begin to nail down what happened,” Conover said. “[The village] is going to have a specialist look into the situation.”

The effluent system was fully restored and two lanes of northbound traffic opened by 4 p.m. March 6, says a statement from the village. There were no reports of visible wastewater spills or damage to transmission facilities in Islamorada.

“Islamorada residents were asked to temporarily reduce use of water that flows into the sewer system un

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
Crews from J.A. LaRocco Enterprise and the village of Islamorada fill in a section of the main sewer line running to the Key Largo wastewater treatment plant. Two pipe breaks occurred near mile marker 92.7 that closed one lane of northbound U.S. 1 and slowed Tavernier traffic March 5 and 6.

til after the repairs were completed to reduce flows until the transmission to the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment Plant was restored,” a notice said.

Islamorada in mid-2016 connected its wastewater system to the main Key Largo treatment plant near mile marker 100.5. In January, Islamorada pumped about 20.5 million gallons of effluent to the Key Largo facility.

With one northbound lane of U.S. 1 closed during the pipe and road repairs, peak driving times slowed and saw traffic back up from the work area to south of Tavernier Creek Bridge, near mile marker 90.5.

“Plenty of people were not happy,” Conover said.

Permanent repairs to the damaged highway sections in Tavernier “will be scheduled for a future date during overnight hours to reduce traffic impacts,” the Islamorada notice says.

kwadlow@keysnews.com