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FKAA lowers wastewater cost

The treatment plant for the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, now in operation, means more wastewater customers for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority. The utility has declared a rate cut for many areas.
The treatment plant for the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, now in operation, means more wastewater customers for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority. The utility has declared a rate cut for many areas. FKAA

The cost of water for flushing could drop by about $10 on the typical monthly bill sent to many Florida Keys residences in October.

A cut of about 15 percent in both the wastewater base rate and cost of water provided by the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority likely will reduce the average bill from $75.70 to $65.56, said Julie Cheon, FKAA’s water quality and environmental manager.

The average residential customer who uses about 4,500 gallons of water a month has been paying a $28 base rate for wastewater, and $10.60 per 1,000 gallons.

The FKAA’s board of directors voted to lower the base rate to $24.18 and the 1,000-gallon cost to $9.15, effective for the October bill cycle for the agency’s wastewater districts.

“It’s a numbers thing, an economy of scale,” FKAA Executive Director Kirk Zuelch said Thursday. “Basically, more people supporting the system gives us the ability to reduce the rates.”|

Thousands of new connections in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater Service Area in the Lower Keys have expanded the customer base of the wastewater districts. Those districts include residents of Bay Point, Big Coppitt Key, Duck Key, Conch Key, Key Haven and Layton, in addition to the Cudjoe service area.

About 2,000 of the residences in the Cudjoe area have connected to the system, a number that will reach around 9,000 when the system is complete.

“We’re able to spread fixed expenses, reducing the cost per customer, while also achieving a tremendous reduction in nutrient discharges to nearshore waters,” Zuelch said.

Other wastewater service providers, including municipalities and the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District, set their own rates, which most often are billed through the FKAA.

The Cudjoe treatment plant, part of the $188 million Lower Keys sewer system, now handles around 200,000 gallons of water a day. “The plant is working perfectly and the [nearshore water-quality] monitoring shows we’re exceeding all the numbers,” Zuelch said.

A $7.1 million project to drill a deep-water injection well for the Cudjoe plant was delayed when a drill bit became lodged in the shaft. The shaft has been stabilized and work continues on drilling down to about 2,000 feet. The project now is scheduled for completion in December.

Shallow-water injection wells now are being used to dispose of treated effluent. The deep-water well will provide more protection for nearshore waters.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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