A water line break in the Upper Keys prompted the closing of Stanley Switlik and Plantation Key schools, Coral Shores and Marathon high schools and the courthouses in Marathon and Plantation Key on Thursday.
In addition, the Marathon Library, Islamorada City Hall and the Monroe County Tax Collector’s Office in Plantation Key and Marathon offices closed Thursday, March 9. Hours of operation at the Big Pine Key satellite office in the Winn-Dixie shopping plaza were extended Thursday to 4:45 p.m., Monroe County government spokeswoman Kristen Livengood said. Sugarloaf Elementary dismissed early Thursday.
There were no reports of businesses closing because of the water line breaks.
The break, the second along the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority line within 24 hours, occurred around 11 p.m. Wednesday at Mile Marker 92 in Tavernier, near Harry Harris Park. FKAA Executive Director Greg Veliz said the break was much larger than the one that occurred Wednesday morning in Islamorada, in front of the Postcard Inn at Mile Marker 84. The initial line burst took more than 14 hours to repair, according to Veliz.
Homes and businesses did have water and the FKAA did not call for water rationing at this time, but water pressure had been severely diminished, Veliz said. The FKAA was using its desalination plant on Stock Island to provide water to homes and businesses, Veliz said.
Traffic was severely slowed along U.S. 1 on Thursday, as vehicles were being diverted off the Keys’ main highway and onto surface streets. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office was assisting FKAA in directing traffic.
The two water main breaks in the past two days is an expensive problem, with Veliz estimating the cost of repairs to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. The system is more than 50 years old, and if one section fails, it puts more pressure on other sections of the system, Veliz said. The FKAA has to be careful in increasing the pressure while the system is being repaired to not cause additional breaks, Veliz said.
The FKAA has been using its water reserves while repairing the breaks, and it will take weeks to replace those reserves, Veliz said.
The break in the water line occurred as the FKAA is about to start a major project replacing the main transmission line.
In April, the FKAA will begin the Islamorada Transmission Main Replacement Project. Approximately 4 miles of the original 30-inch thick transmission main, which is 60 years old, will be replaced with a 36-inch thick cathodically protected pipe. Additionally, the mains at the Tea Table Relief and Whale Harbor bridge crossings will be installed underwater to protect them from high winds and storm surges, according to the FKAA.
Crews will begin installing the new transmission main near Mile Marker 79.5 at the south end of Islamorada and work north along U.S. 1 to just south of Whale Harbor Channel near Mile Marker 84, according to the FKAA.