TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When a natural disaster such as the spring storms and flooding in north Florida occurs, murky floodwaters are a witch?s brew of highly toxic materials that contaminate wells, damage septic systems and, with thriving molds, can destroy a structure and cause serious illness.?
While programs to help people are not intended to cover all of a survivor?s losses, assistance can be given to eligible residents of 17 Florida counties where wells or septic systems were damaged by the March 26 ? May 5 storms and ensuing floodwater ? much of which is still present. Those 17 counties, designated to assist eligible people, are Calhoun, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Wakulla, Walton and Washington.
Officials of the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) don't want anyone living in a house with contaminated water or raw sewage. Applicants for state and federal disaster assistance should tell the FEMA inspector who visits if they have a private well and septic system that may have been inundated.
Attack Mold Aggressively
Mold, another result of flooding, calls for an aggressive attack to save property and avert illness. Molds are simple microscopic organisms found virtually everywhere. People should be concerned about mold in the home if the contamination is extensive. Exposure to high spore levels can cause development of an allergy as well as structural damage to a home.? If an inspector determines the mold was the result of disaster flooding, homeowners may be eligible for some degree of assistance. Damage from pre-existing mold, however, is not covered by state-federal programs.
Immediate, aggressive cleaning action is highly recommended to combat mold invasions. People who are uncertain how to apply the rigorous cleansing action required to save a property should seek advice at a Disaster Recovery Center or log into www.FloridaDisaster.org or www.fema.gov for guidance. Professional mold removal companies can also be found on the Web.? More mold-specific information is on the Web sites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/protect.asp, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at? www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html.
Wells and Septic Tank Repair
Homeowners in the designated disaster counties may be eligible for grant funding to pump septic tanks, perform required repairs or replace the system as needed. Damaged private wells that are the sole source of water for the home also may be repaired or decontaminated. Home repair grants are designed to restore the home to a livable and sanitary condition. To qualify for this disaster assistance, applicants must own their homes, and the homes must be their primary residences. Grants are not intended to restore a home to pre-disaster condition, and they cannot be used for cosmetic repairs or repairs covered by insurance. The programs are designed to assist an applicant in having safe, sanitary and functional living conditions.
But before any federally assisted recovery work can happen, storm survivors must register with FEMA for assistance. Call FEMA?s toll-free number, 800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 800-462-7585 for people with speech or hearing impairments.? Both numbers are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available. Residents with Internet access have the option to register on the agency?s new Web site, www.disasterassistance.gov...