Tampa, Fla. – University Area CDC (Community Development Corporation) has been working with residents to provide temporary housing to families formerly residing in the Holly Cross Apartment complex. The residents were forced to move due to the lack of safe drinking water.
- In 2017, residents at Holly Court – at 13613 N. 20th St. – complained to University Area CDC about a wide variety of water issues. Residents said the water, which is well water, burned their eyes, smelled foul, made them nauseous when showering and caused urinary tract infections. UACDC partnered with USF Department of Environmental Anthropology and a team of environmental engineers and public health scientists to learn more about the water quality challenges in the area through surveys, interviews, and community conversations.
- In 2018, at the request of University Area CDC, the Florida Department of Health tested the water and found levels of iron exceeding the maximum contaminant level (MCL) by seven times that established by the Safe Drinking Water Act. University Area CDC received a partial report from the Florida Department of Health showing only the results for iron.
- In 2019, new owners of Holly Court Apartments addressed the issue with iron and a Florida Department of Health test showed the iron to be in the upper limit of allowable iron in community water systems. However, some residents continued to complain about the water, citing chlorine as a potential problem. The Department of Health tested and found chlorine to be above average but within the allowable range.
- In December 2021, some residents reported a drop in water pressure. A well repair company reported finding sand in the pumped water from one of the two wells used to serve the property. Technicians and plumbers opened each apartment’s water lines to flush the sand out of their water fixtures.
Palm Communities, the Holly Court managers, distributed seven notices of non-renewal to residents with expired leases, giving them 60 days notice. While this is twice the time required by the State of Florida, due to the current housing crisis, housing is scarce. Along with some residents being placed in other Palm Communities-owned properties, University Area CDC stepped in to help families find lodging at extended stay hotels in the neighborhood until they can return to their apartments when the water quality is safe.
University Area CDC has been assured by Palm Communities and the owner that when the water issue is resolved, residents will be able to return to their apartments at their original contract rental rates. University Area CDC is also working with the property owners to get the apartments connected to City of Tampa water services and with the help of Hillsborough County, this project has been expedited and should be completed in one month instead of the usual three.
Additionally, for years the University Area CDC has been addressing water quality in the area on a wider scale. In 2019, University Area CDC conducted a needs-based assessment, which revealed that more than 150 people identified water quality as a problem. Confidential follow-up interviews with residents recorded the following: residents relied on bottled water for drinking and bathing because of concerns about tap water quality; water was brown; water tasted like chemicals; skin rashes and itching skin was caused by shower water; constant sewage backups; mold growth was reported due to flooding in low-lying areas; babies getting urinary tract infections from bathing in contaminated water; concerns about foot diseases such as leptospirosis caused by exposure to standing water and more.
“We have been working to advocate for residents’ access to hook up to the city’s water and sewer due to the number of contaminated wells and failing sewer systems which contribute to the social determinants of health in the community,” said Sarah Combs, University Area CDC executive director and CEO. “We have been working with Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa to determine how many residents don’t have access, so we can understand the scope of the issue that needs to be addressed from an infrastructure standpoint. We have also been working with USF to determine innovative ways to treat the water and ways to improve the health and well-being of residents through a new sanitation system called OneWash.”
Combs added that University Area CDC has been working with Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa to develop a process to connect residents to sewer and water through a grant obtained from the American Rescue Plan.
About University Area CDC: Celebrating 23 years of serving the community, University Area CDC offers support for thousands of Tampa residents through youth programs, adult education and resource assistance. Its primary mission is the redevelopment and sustainability of the at-risk areas surrounding University of South Florida’s Tampa campus. For more information about University Area CDC, visit uacdc.org or call 813.558.5212.