Brevard business owners blame Brightline for flooding

Advanced Roof Technology owner Steven Scott says retaining wall exacerbates flooding

Advanced Roof Technology Office Coordinator Brandon Massimini stands alongside a metal trash can that floated onto his company's lot. (Rick Neale, Florida Today)

Amid heavy rainfall Saturday night, Advanced Roof Technology Office Coordinator Brandon Massimini remotely logged onto the company’s security system and checked on the property.

Roiling waist-high floodwater was swamping the business’ Avocado Avenue lot in the darkness, lapping against Brightline’s recently installed white concrete retaining wall along the east side of the property, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

“We looked on the cameras and saw that the entire street was flooded out. The entire parking area here was completely flooded out — and had a current. That’s how fast the water was moving,” Massimini recalled Monday morning, standing outside the Advanced Roof Technology building.

“And the entirety of the back lot here was also just underwater,” Massimini said.

Advanced Roof Technology owner Steven Scott blames the Brightline retaining wall for exacerbating flooding in their low-lying neighborhood immediately west of the railroad tracks over the past year or so. So do Home Wreckers co-owners Chad and Brandi Lekander, who said they similarly lost at least one work truck during Saturday’s flood.

Sunday, Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey shared Massimini’s photos of flooding at Advanced Roof Technology in a Facebook post. Some photos featured a green metal trash bin that floated onto the company lot from an unknown location and blocked Brightline drainage pipes.

Alfrey said he will confer with City Hall staffers and send a letter to Brightline asking for a report detailing flooding impacts in the Eau Gallie neighborhood, along with potential remedies. Scott said he measured 29 inches of floodwater Saturday night against the Brightline retaining wall.

“Clearly to me, this water is backing up that much from their project,” Alfrey said. “My concern is the potential flooding if we get a tropical storm.”

Further details remained unknown Monday.

“We are looking into the concern raised by Mayor Alfrey and have crews on site evaluating the situation,” Brightline spokesperson Katie Mitzner said.

Meanwhile, City Hall staffers are still evaluating multiple areas across Melbourne that experienced stormwater runoff issues during Saturday’s intense rain event, Deputy City Manager Jenni Lamb said.

“Based on the NOAA rain data for Melbourne International Airport, it rained 2.54 inches in six hours. City staff determined that Saturday’s rain event was greater than a 100-year/6-hour storm based on the FDOT intensity duration frequency curves,” Lamb said in an email.

Brightline is constructing a $2.7 billion passenger rail expansion route that links Orlando International Airport with South Florida. Crews are installing a second set of rails alongside the Florida East Coast Railway corridor from Indian River County northward through Eau Gallie into Cocoa.

Advanced Roof Technology and Home Wreckers border the Brightline concrete retaining wall along Avocado Avenue, which parallels the railroad tracks in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood between Aurora and Lake Washington roads.

Chad Lekander said Brightline crews eliminated a drainage ditch while installing the wall. He believes Saturday’s flood — which infiltrated the Home Wreckers shop, vehicles, storage units and equipment — could have been prevented.

“There was a ditch about 6 feet deep and 6 to 8 feet wide that absorbed all this water. Well, they got rid of it,” Lekander said.

Flooding was reported across Brevard County during Saturday’s storms, including elsewhere in Eau Gallie. The National Weather Service issued flood advisories, along with a special marine warning for boaters to beware of high winds and steep waves.

All told, 5.07 inches of rain fell in Indian Harbour Beach during Saturday’s “heavy rainfall event,” the NWS reported. The agency’s office on Croton Road near Melbourne Orlando International Airport received 3.48 inches of rain, while measuring stations near Palm Shores recorded more than 4 inches.

That precipitation fell in a relatively short period of time, said Scott Kelly, a meteorologist at the Melbourne NWS station. A trough of low pressure sat over Florida for several days last week, saturating soils and dropping excessive rainfall on various areas, he said.

Monday morning, Home Wreckers personnel emptied flooded storage areas and set waterlogged items out to dry on tables in the sunshine. Chad Lekander said he will compile a damage assessment for an insurance claim.

Massimini has worked at Advanced Roof Technology since 2016. He said the company lot flooded during Hurricane Irma in 2017, but this was the worst instance since.

Scott said he has complained to Brightline via email over the past year that the wall has increased his flooding woes.

“In the past 20 to 25 years, this has been an ongoing situation. And now it’s just gotten worse. We’ve literally had to go out and spend a bundle of money on flood insurance because of this issue now,” Scott said.