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Arsenic levels, annexation and flood insurance discussed at Civic

April 11, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Greater Pine Island Civic Association held its monthly meeting last week to discuss high levels of arsenic found on Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve, an update on the Matlacha annexation lawsuit, an update on Woodstock airstrip and the possible effects incorporation would have on flood insurance.

At the March board meeting, the GPICA elected three board members: Shari Perkins, Gabrielle Solterra and Roger Wood. The board then elected Bryan Crane as treasurer, Nancy Harwood as secretary, Scott Wilkinson as vice president and Claudia Bringe as president.

The current GPICA board now consists of:

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Officers: President Claudia Bringe, Vice President Scott Wilkinson, Secretary Nancy Harwood, Treasurer Nadine Slimak.

Board Members: Bryan Crane, Carol D. Crane, Tim Heitz, Shari Perkins, Gabriele Solterra, Anna Stober and Roger Wood.

In December 2017, WGCU Public Media provided an update of an earlier study indicating groundwater on Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve showed elevated arsenic levels. Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve is a 920-acre 20/20 preserve located on Stringfellow Road just south of Turtle Trail Road. The EPA and World Health Organization's "safe standard" for levels of arsenic is 10 micrograms/liter. At their peak, arsenic levels at Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve were 30 times higher than the federal government allows for drinking water.

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Wilkinson said that at the time of purchase part of Flatwoods was under contract with Lee County Utilities "to use as a spray field to dispose of some of the treated wastewater (effluent) from its Pine Island Wastewater Treatment Facility.

"This WWTF treats all the municipal sewage from Matlacha and some areas of St. James City," Wilkinson said. "If you go down there you'll see the waste water treatment plant on the left. There's a huge spray-field it looks like lawn sprinklers on posts."

In tests conducted by Lee County Utilities, arsenic levels showed a marked increase in Maintenance Well #5 in May 2012 when they rose from 1.45 micrograms per liter to 17.3 micrograms per liter. Six months later the arsenic level rose to 32.0 and three months later to 68.6 reaching a high of 147.0 in February 2014.

A resolution was adopted by the GPICA that "Lee County Utilities should pay for all testing and cleanup of arsenic contamination at the waste water effluent spray-field at Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve." Also that "Lee County Utilities will completely discontinue using that spray-field and will immediately commence dismantling it."

Additional information can be found on the GPICA website:

In other business, Matlacha resident and Washington, D.C., attorney Michael Hannon provided an update on the Matlacha Civic Association's lawsuit against the Cape Coral annexation of property on Matlacha.

"Cape Coral filed its opposition to our brief in the District Court last Monday and our reply is due to the court 20 days from their filing and the court will probably schedule oral arguments in 3 to 5 months," Hannon said.

Ndakhte Ndiaye, a resident of Woodstock Road, adjacent to the newly proposed Lee County Mosquito Control airstrip, provided an update on the status of the airstrip lawsuit. "Lee County Mosquito Control filed a motion to dismiss and a meeting was held where both sides presented their arguments," Ndiaye said. "Now both sides have to present a recap of the arguments by Friday (4/6/18). We don't know how long it will be before the judge rules on the case."

One of the concerns residents face with the possibility of incorporation is how it would effect homeowner flood insurance. Jamie Scofstad, from Safety Harbour Insurance, clarified some issues raised since her presentation at Matlacha Civic Association's February meeting. Scofstad has over 15 years experience in the insurance industry.

"The people who will be most effected by this (incorporation) are people whose homes were built before September 1984 which is when our first flood insurance rate maps were done for this area."

In 1984, unincorporated Lee County joined the National Flood Insurance Program to enable residents with mortgages to obtain flood insurance policies through the NFIP and to ensure FEMA will provide emergency assistance to Lee County residents. Through the NFIP, Lee County adopted FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which determine the cost of flood insurance and set standards for construction in various flood zones.

"Up until now most of those homes received discounted rates," Scofstad said. "Those houses built before 1984 didn't meet the base elevation that they should have been built to. Now they are doing away with the subsidized rate and slowly bringing everybody up to full risk rates."

According to Scofstad, "depending on the occupancy of the home, it's 18-25 percent increases per year until you reach your full risk rates."

Elevation certificates are how flood insurance premiums are determined. Pine Island and Matlacha are high risk areas and insurance agents will require an elevation certificate to determine your premium. Elevation certificates measure the elevation of the home above mean high tide. In general, the higher your lowest floor is above mean high tide the lower your flood insurance premium.

Bringe announced that GPICA is in the process of revising its current bylaws posted at Comments about changes and updates can be sent to GPICA expects to have revisions completed before their May meeting.

The GPICA meets at the Elks on Pine Island Road, west of Stringfellow, on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. Join or renew membership for $10 per person annual fee.



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