Battling cancer, Carmel resident can’t go back to water-damaged home

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By Ann Marie Shambaugh

Battling blood cancer is never easy. But the fight for Derek Fakehany of Carmel is complicated by the fact that when he’s not in the hospital, he can’t go home.

Fakehany and his wife, Amy Van Ostrand, moved out of their home on 1st Ave. SE on April 16 after mold remediation expert Rachel Adams confirmed the presence of mold, which can be dangerous for a person with a weakened immune system. The mold is believed to be a result of a dozen severe floods in the last 13 years in the historic home, which was not known to flood before that.

The couple believes that the flooding is caused by outdated city infrastructure. The city has plans to rebuild pipes and add curbs in the area, with construction wrapping up by the fall. However city officials have said that the project is not expected to fix all of the family’s flooding problems.

“It is important to recognize that some properties have flooding issues that are not caused by street drainage alone,” stated Nancy Heck, Carmel’s director of community relations. “We have spent a great deal of time studying this particular homeowner’s issue with regard to flooding in the yard and are making some repairs to a nearby system that may have contributed to their issue.”

Van Ostrand said multiple consultants have told her that there is nothing else she can do to prevent flooding in her home and that an expansion of the city’s storm system is the only solution. Until that happens, the couple can’t go home, Van Ostrand said. This comes as Fakehany recently completed his seventh round of chemotherapy and is expected to undergo a bone marrow transplant in the coming weeks.

“We clearly cannot spend thousands of dollars out of pocket to remediate mold when the basement is continuing to flood on a regular basis, and thus, everything hinges on the City of Carmel starting its project,” Van Ostrand stated. “If they do not start soon, Derek will not be allowed to recover from a bone marrow transplant in the comfort of his own home that he’s lived in for 16 years.”

Fakehany and Van Ostrand are not the only ones to experience flooding in their home. Other residents believe that failing infrastructure is to blame for their own flooding issues.

Bob McClure, who built his house in 1998 in Carmel Station, said he knows of several basements in his neighborhood needing repairs from flood damage and that he has had to replace four sump pumps in recent years.

“A few years ago, there were water main leaks in the neighborhood,” McClure said. “At that time, my own sump pump started to run and run to the point where I had to connect a pipe outside and direct the water to the street to prevent the basement from flooding. Even after days and days of dry weather, the sump pump continued to dispense water.”

McClure said a city official inspected his basement and concluded that the water issues were not related to the water main leaks and not the city’s problem, but he couldn’t provide an answer as to the cause.

Heck said that Carmel will direct any resident in need of help to the township trustee for services, but it’s not the city’s job to maintain private property.

“In general, cities are responsible for city infrastructure only and not the portion that is owned by property owners,” Heck stated. “Many times, older systems designed with standards in place at the time, are not adequate for today’s standards.”

As they wait for infrastructure repairs near their home, Fakehany and Van Ostrand have moved into a temporary condo after staying with friends.

“This is very difficult, given that we have tremendous out of pocket medical expenses for Derek’s cancer, along with upcoming out of pocket costs to remediate mold in our basement caused by the chronic flooding that the City of Carmel’s negligent maintenance of its infrastructure has caused,” Van Ostrand said, adding that she and Fakehany are still paying their mortgage and utilities at their uninhabitable home.

During this time, community members have stepped up to help out the couple, who doesn’t have family in the area. Friends have started a GoFundMe page to help them cover mounting expenses and so many people wanted to participate in a blood and bone marrow donation drive organized by Van Ostrand’s employer that some had to be turned away after supplies ran out.

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from the community,” Van Ostrand said.

Read more about the flooding at the Fakehany and Van Ostrand home at http://youarecurrent.com/after-13-years-of-flooding-carmel-couple-says-city-hasnt-done-enough.

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1 Comment

  1. concerned citizen on

    As I understand it the drainage/sewer backup issues in this area started in the early 2000s. And the issue is not limited to this property. So is it really lack of maintenance, or does it have more to do with all the development nearby? Did the city ever put in more/bigger sewer pipes to adequately serve all the new apartments and mixed use buildings, as well as existing homes and businesses?

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