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Key West Gets Beach Buddy Accolade

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 enhancements.

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 compliance deadline."

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 treatment.

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 quality boards.

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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