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It took nearly 20 years, $1 billion and much effort by the state, local government, local utilities and the community of just 76,000 residents, but the Florida Keys has met the State of Florida’s legislative mandate of 1999 to install central sewer systems throughout the island chain to protect the deteriorating nearshore waters.

“It brings new meaning to the phrase: We are small but we are mighty,” said State Rep. Holly Raschein, who represents the Florida Keys. “I really feel like shouting hallelujah, and can I get an Amen ... If it were not for the rain, I feel like we would have this celebration at night and have fireworks, that is how big a deal today is.”

Raschein was among a large group of state and local leaders – past and present – as well as government staff, utility executives and staff, and members of the community who gathered Thursday at Marathon City Hall to participate in the Florida Keys Sewer Celebration. The event was hosted by Monroe County Mayor George Neugent, who has been involved with the daunting mandate from the start. Dignitaries included Cissy Proctor, Florida’s Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

While there are still a few, small wastewater collection projects left to complete – and some residences and businesses that still need to connect to the systems – the major work has been completed. There are now 13 advanced wastewater treatment systems operated by 8 utilities or cities in Monroe County.

“Many thought we were on a fool’s errand,” Neugent said. “But many knew it was the right thing to do for the sake of water quality, our ecosystem and our economy. Our economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of our environment.”

Kirk Zuelch, Executive Director of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, which constructed six of the Keys’ advanced wastewater treatment systems and now operates seven systems, said much praise should go to the engineers.

“What an engineering feat it was,” Zuelch said. “Many people are familiar with what it’s like on the mainland. You dig holes. You don’t have coral. You don’t have 40-something islands. You don’t have bridges.

“The completion of central wastewater throughout Monroe County is the product of a community determined to overcome numerous challenges to improve our environment for this and many future generations to come.”

Julie Cheon
Public Information Manager
Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority

Ph: (305) 295-2150
Cell:: (305) 814-7333

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