TAMPA, Fla. — The University Area Community Development Corporation says the neighbors it serves have had a longstanding problem: dirty, potentially unsafe drinking water.
“The water and the sewer problems in this community — like I said, we’ve been working on these for years, so while this isn’t a surprise to us, we certainly feel for these residents,” said Sarah Combs, the CEO of the University Area CDC.
Combs’ group reports that — over the years — neighbors have complained that the smelly, sometimes discolored well water has burned their eyes, given them urinary tract infections, and even made them nauseous when showering.
More recently, the group says some of the area’s well water has become contaminated with sand. Those latest issues forced some renters out of their apartments on Holly Court to temporary homes.
“Unfortunately, the situation with Holly Court is such an unfortunate one,” said Combs, whose non-profit assisted renters in finding temporary accommodations. “We really want to find a solution, and so by working with Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa, as well as some of our other partner agencies, we’re working specifically with some of these families to be able to get them in a temporary housing, and then the goal is to get them in permanent housing.”
Discussing solutions to the water and sewer problems will be the focus of a dinner meeting Tuesday night.
Combs says USF Professor Christian Wells, who serves as the director of the USF Center for Brownfields Research and Development, will present findings of a recent study of the area’s water and sewer infrastructure to help guide the University Area CDC and its neighbors in determining their next steps.
To Combs, there is reason for optimism. Hillsborough County recently approved $5 million in American Rescue Plan funds to help fund a Sewer and Water Connection Program in the University Area, which Combs hopes will address some of the root causes of contamination.
“We’re looking at about a three-square mile radius. That’s the area that we’re focusing on through this funding — through this Sewer and Water Connection Program,” said Combs.
The free dinner meeting starts at 5 p.m. at the Harvest Hope Center on N 20th Street in Tampa. An RSVP is recommended but not required.