MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — With the scale of damage from Hurricane Ian, cleanup will take months and rebuilding could take years. As federal and state resources quickly poured into Southwest Florida’s hardest-hit counties, some residents of a neighborhood nestled between Hardee and Manatee counties said they felt neglected.
It is a quiet rural area of Myakka town, just south of the Mosaic phosphate mines, known as Myakka Head.
“There are still many people who need help; old people have trees in their yard that they can’t do and they can’t pay to have them removed because they can’t afford it,” said Myakka owner Pamela Boyd.
Boyd drove his neighbor 45 minutes to find help at what is now the nearest FEMA disaster recovery center in Bradenton.
“I have a lady who is 82, she has cancer, and I have known her for a while and now it overwhelms her, Boyd said. “Her roof was leaking now, she has over 13 trees in her yard that need to come out…and she can’t afford to pay to have all of this done.”
Boyd said FEMA officials gave her neighbor the number for the volunteer-based Crisis Clean Up hotline, which closed Nov. 4 – the day before.
Boyd explained that many Myakka residents were cut off from communication when cell towers and internet service went down.
ABC Action News in-depth reporter Stassy Olmos drove the homes off State Route 64 and Duette Road and met with owner Garrett Ramy.
“We had no communication here. Sprint and T Mobile are still down,” Ramy said.
He still has trees and a power line in his garden.
“I have damage to the roof of the house, damage to the barn,” Ramy said. “We’re looking at about $100,000 in property damage and then about $20,000 in personal property loss.”
Ramy’s insurance company has tarred the roof of his house and barn, but he said many residents there are retired and cannot afford insurance.
“My neighbor right there… you know, he lost a lot. His roof is also leaking. He has no home insurance. You know, he has a very limited income,” he explained.
He adds that he had questions he didn’t answer at a county community meeting in early November.
“For instance, the Army Corps of Engineers roof program was not available to us,” Ramy said. “Also the Governor’s program…of $5 million that was going to help homeowners get relief from their insurance deductibles – which was not available in Manatee County.”
In addition to the damage, Manatee County informed residents of Myakka on October 13 the health department found that “a significant number of private wells in the area were contaminated by flood waters”.
They opened a free water, shower and laundry site at the Myakka Community Center, also offering free water testing through the Manatee Department of Health.
Boyd said it all had an impact on residents’ mental health.
“They need crews that have volunteer time or some kind of help to help people,” Boyd said. “Because they are depressed, some of them are almost broke.
Olmos contacted agencies involved in disaster response, from FEMA to the governor’s office, to ask what is being done for Manatee residents who still need help.
The governor’s office has asked for the contacts of the residents we spoke to so they can contact them and find out what their exact needs are.
Although the governor’s office did not respond when we asked about deductible financial insurance assistance available for certain counties, we found that in its original press release announcing the funds, Governor Ron DeSantis said it was for Ian’s victims living in the “hardest hit counties” of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee and Sarasota.
A Manatee County spokesperson said FEMA has been at the Myakka Community Center for weeks, but residents should now visit FEMA’s disaster recovery center at John Marble Park in Brandenton, the same as the one where Boyd and his neighbor went.
FEMA External Affairs told us that Manatee residents are eligible for what is called their Individual Assistance Program, which provides rental assistance and housing to displaced people, as well as funds to help make a home “safe, hygienic and functional”.
FEMA funds the corps. of Engineers Blue Roof Program, which tarps roofs free of charge after natural disasters and therefore selects eligible counties at the request of state emergency management. This criterion includes the number of structures and “how many can be made ‘safe for habitability with the blue roof program,'” according to a FEMA spokesperson.
We also spoke with Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) Director Kevin Guthrie, who explained that Manatee is not an eligible county for FEMA debris removal assistance. private property, so it may depend on voluntary organizations.
“The best recourse at this time, I would say to individuals, is to contact your insurance company. If your insurance company doesn’t cover it, contact your local emergency management agency so they can work with local nonprofits inside Manatee County and possibly the area for you. help,” Guthrie advised.
For Southwest Florida residents who still need to pick up debris, The FDEM has one application still open. They can only go to private property in Lee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.
“We are not looking for handouts from the government… But what we are looking for is recognition,” exclaimed Ramy.
The most recent well tests from the Department of Health in Manatee obtained on November 14 show 553 mapped wells that have been tested:
- 353 are satisfactory
- 156 are unsatisfactory
- 44 are still contaminated
Because the wells are private, it is up to each resident to clean and sanitize their well after flood contamination.
We asked Manatee County Information Outreach Officer Bill Logan and the Manatee DOH what they were finding in the water.
Logan replied in an email: “When a well is flooded, there is a chance that flood waters will enter the well and cause bacteriological contamination. Wells contaminated with bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illnesses such as diarrhea and vomiting if the water is consumed. It could also lead to infections of open cuts used for bathing and showering. The only way to verify that water is safe is to have it tested. Tests are carried out for coliform and e-coli bacteria. FDOH-Manatee provides residents with sterile sample bottles and instructions on how to collect a sample from their well. We have set up a collection point for residents to bring in samples to take to a state-approved lab for testing. We provide the results to the resident when the lab has completed the analysis. Well, bacteria-free results are bacteriologically safe.
We asked if chemicals from the nearby Mosaic phosphate mine were a problem.
“No. The investigation is for bacteriological contamination,” Logan clarified.
Mosaic’s only public notice of pollution report on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website from Hurricane Ian is a submission from Four Corner’s Mine on 9/30/2022 stating:
“The continued release of stormwater from facility stormwater BMPs was discovered during a post-storm investigation following excessive rainfall and region-wide flooding during and after Hurricane Ian. Access to the site remains limited due to ongoing flooding in the area.
Florida’s Division of Emergency Management also said it would send specialists to test about 200 private wells – a mission delayed due to Hurricane Nicole.
To contact the Manatee County Emergency Management Office, call (941) 749-3500 or email: [email protected]
The Myakka City Community Center is located at 10060 Wauchula Rd in Myakka City. Facilities will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the wells are safely usable.