Key West has evolved from "Beach
Bum" to "Beach Buddy" according to a report released
Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The island city
was one of five U.S. communities to receive the Beach Buddy award,
presented annually by the NRDC to recognize communities that have taken
significant steps to monitor beach water quality and reduce pollution.
Key West Mayor Jimmy Weekley attributed the distinction to "doing the
right thing by spending $67 million to improve our sewage collection
system, and going to Advanced Wastewater Treatment."
Weekley praised residents who approved a
$23 million bond issue in 1999 to help fund wastewater treatment
In September 2001, the city introduced a
$4.6 million deep-injection well which eliminated the disposal of treated
wastewater into the Atlantic, and began treating wastewater to advanced
standards after a $6.2 million treatment plant overhaul.
"The combination of advanced
wastewater treatment and deep-well disposal puts Key West at the forefront
of environmental protection among Florida municipalities," said David
Fernandez, Key West utilities director, at the time of the introduction.
"Plus, we're operating eight years ahead of the state’s 2010
Beach Buddy award criteria include
monitoring beach water regularly, adopting the United States Environmental
Protection Agency’s health standards for bacterial content and closing
beaches or notifying the public when excessive contaminants are present.
NRDC strengthened its criteria for the 2002 awards to applaud communities
working to reduce beach pollution by improving sewage or stormwater
In addition to Key West, NRDC’s Beach
Buddy award recipients included Branford, Conn.; Salem, Mass.; and
California’s Los Angeles County and San Diego County regional water
Soon after the organization had labeled Key
West a Beach Bum in 1997, the city of Key West began routine bacteria
testing of nearshore waters.
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