Com­mu­nity aims to pre­vent toxic sludge

Good Sa­mar­i­tan Kis­sim­mee Vil­lage seek­ing state funds to help pre­vent fu­ture fail­ures

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Ryan Gille­spie

As Hur­ri­cane Irma flooded the Good Sa­mar­i­tan Kis­sim­mee Vil­lage in 2017, the se­nior and as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­ity’s wastew­a­tertreat­ment fa­cil­ity had to be shut off, send­ing gal­lons of toxic waste into the Shin­gle Creek Basin and residue into units.

The toxic sludge was a key fac­tor in the flood caus­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age to units there, as many weren’t sal­vage­able and some res­i­dents lost all of their be­long­ings be­cause of the waste­water. The flood­ing in­cluded “un­san­i­tary agents, harm­ful bac­te­ria and fungi, caus­ing se­vere dis­com­fort or sick­ness,” the vil­lage’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor wrote in a let­ter to the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency in 2017.

Amid cleanup ef­forts — and an am­bi­tious $50 mil­lion plan to put its build­ings on stilts like ocean­front homes — the vil­lage is now seek­ing $3.5 mil­lion in state funds to help pay for con­nect­ing to the Toho Wa­ter Au­thor­ity’s waste­water sys­tem to pre­vent fu­ture fail­ures.

“It’s go­ing to elim­i­nate the threat of the con­tam­i­nated wa­ter that could mix with the flood­wa­ters, pen­e­trat­ing our apart­ments…as well as those down­stream from us with con­tam­i­nated wa­ters breach­ing Shin­gle Creek and ul­ti­mately im­pact­ing our neigh­bors,” said Mark Bar­glof, Kis­sim­mee Vil­lage ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

Along with the re­quest for state funds, Good Sa­mar­i­tan is also seek­ing a $2.5 mil­lion FEMA grant and plans to cover the rest of the $10 mil­lion project — which also will in­clude im­prov­ing sewage lines and other in­fra­struc­ture — it­self.

In hook­ing up to the Toho Wa­ter Au­thor­ity, Bar­glof said the agency, which pro­vides wa­ter, waste­water and re­claimed wa­ter to Osce­ola County, is bet­ter equipped to han­dle emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. As Irma flooded the vil­lage, the on-site waste­water plant was shut down as the floods closed in

on the elec­tri­cal grid.

Once the treat­ment plant is taken down, it will be turned into park and green space, Bar­glof said.

The project, which would take about three years to com­plete, is the pri­or­ity for Good Sa­mar­i­tan, Bar­glof said, push­ing back a plan dis­cussed last year to raise its build­ings on stilts to pre­vent flood­ing.

The com­mu­nity of about 1,200 res­i­dents liv­ing in in­de­pen­dent, as­sisted and nurs­ing-home style units is built in a flood plain and has been evac­u­ated in sev­eral hur­ri­canes.

The re­quest is spon­sored by state Rep. Jon Cortes, D-Kis­sim­mee, and will be con­sid­ered along with hun­dreds more when the leg­isla­tive ses­sion be­gins Jan. 14. Last year, Cortes and Good Sa­mar­i­tan didn’t re­ceive any funds for its $2 mil­lion re­quest to help pay for rais­ing its units.

“It’s not if an­other hur­ri­cane is go­ing to hap­pen, it’s when. That is our ap­proach to it,” said Aaron Woods, a spokesman for the Good Sa­mar­i­tan So­ci­ety. “We know we’ll get im­pacted by an­other ma­jor storm and we want to make sure we’re mak­ing all of the ap­pro­pri­ate prepa­ra­tions for the next storm.”

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