Community aims to prevent toxic sludge
Good Samaritan Kissimmee Village seeking state funds to help prevent future failures
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.”