FLORIDA - 2" Water Main Break Angers Residents

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March 25, 2000 - 01:49 AM


Title: Anger flows when water line leaks

KATHY STEELE and B.C. MANION of The Tampa Tribune

Water overflows the gutters and pools along Kelly Road on Friday, hours after a 2-inch main broke.

CLIFF McBRIDE/Tribune photo

As residents' thirsty lawns withered, they watched gallons of cool, clear drinking water gush down the gutters along Kelly Road. For more than nine hours Friday, the precious stuff spewed from a broken water main despite repeated calls for help.

``It's been gushing all night. Gallons and gallons are pouring into the street,'' said Jan Howard, who lives on Caracas Street.

The noise awakened Joe Allred in the middle of the night, and he got up to search his home for a running toilet or leaky faucet.

``What's up with these people?'' he said. ``Neighbors called so something could be done. It's an emergency. We're under water restrictions.''

David Tippin, chief of the city's Water Department, made no excuses.

``We blew it. We screwed up,'' he said.

``We got a call in our triage [center] at 2:30 this morning [Friday]. We dispatched one of our service personnel out there. They called back at 3.''

However, repairs didn't begin until more than eight hours later. Workers found a hole in the 2-inch cast-iron pipe at the corner of Kelly and Caracas Street.

Tippin estimated the water loss as less than a swimming pool might hold.

The worker should have begun repairs immediately, he said.

``The employee didn't do that. We'll deal with it,'' Tippin said, adding any disciplinary action would be decided next week.

Neighbors said they began calling about the leak shortly after 2 a.m.

Kyle Magnin saw the water streaming down the street when he arrived home from an evening out. He rang the Water Department's 24-hour hot line and was told to call the sheriff's office, which he did.

In the morning, the water still burbled. A sawhorse with flashing yellow lights had been erected near the spot. The flow annoyed Fritz Evans, who is struggling to keep 140 potted plants alive under curtailed water rations.

``Now I'm down to once a week with hand watering,'' he said. ``It's a bad time with water.''

Some neighbors said they've come to expect leaks and sewage backups in their 40-year-old neighborhood, which is in unincorporated Hillsborough County.

While sewage here is the county's responsibility, water is the city's. The split services create confusion, said Rick Brylski, a Tampa Tribune carrier who lives in the neighborhood.

``Nobody wants to claim us.''

With a shrug of his shoulders, Joe Allred noted the growing crowd of reporters, television trucks and news helicopters. They were all there to document the water leak.

``Bad news travels faster than our Water Department.''

Kathy Steele and B.C. Manion can be reached at 885-5437. ===================================

-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 25, 2000

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