TAMPA, Fla. — A citywide precautionary boil water notice will remain in effect through at least Thursday following a large water main break outside a Tampa water treatment facility.
During an update Tuesday morning, Brad Baird, the Deputy Administrator of Infrastructure at the Tampa Water Department, said the boil water notice will say in effect anywhere from 48 to 72 hours, starting from Tuesday morning.
The water department will take samples to be analyzed; and once two tests have cleared analysis at all testing locations, the notice will be lifted.
People living in the Hillsborough County communities of Eastlake, Fairview, Herschel Heights, Pebble Creek, Palm River and Seaboard -- plus everyone living in Tampa -- are asked to boil their water.
A temporary citywide ban on using water for irrigation purposes was lifted Tuesday morning. Click or tap here for more information on watering schedules.
Tampa officials said a third-party company performing work Monday afternoon hit a transmission main coming from the David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility. Late Tuesday evening, the city shared a picture of a damaged pipe.
Some parts of the water system are experiencing lower water pressure as a result of the break, the city said. There is concern bacteria or viruses could have entered the water, so officials ask that people disinfect it before use.
About three hours after the reported break Monday evening, a city notice said workers isolated the affected water main and turned off the water in the area.
"We are in the process of pumping out the excess water so we can begin repairs," the city said in a statement. The precautionary boil water notice remains in effect until further notice.
Aerial video from Sky 10 showed water gushing from the break seen near the facility site and flowing into a nearby neighborhood.
"I heard like a pounding like you usually hear, and then I heard and seen all of the water just flowing! I mean flowing and it didn't stop," Waymon Hunter said. "I said, 'Pick up all the Christmas gifts off the floor,' cause I didn't know if the water was going to flood. Thank God no one was injured."
"Although it is unlikely there is any contamination in the system, the notice means customers are advised, as a precautionary measure, to boil tap water for cooking and drinking," Hillsborough County said in a notice.
The city lists the following recommendations to safely boil water:
- Bring the water to a rolling boil and holding it there for one minute. Aerate the boiled water by pouring it from one container to another several times to improve the "flat" taste left by boiling, then refrigerate for best results.
- Use bleach if you cannot boil your water. Add eight drops (about 1/8th teaspoon) of bleach for one gallon of tap water, shake, then let stand for 30 minutes before drinking. Use food-grade containers and unscented common household bleach that has 5% to 6% active ingredients. If the water is cloudy, use 16 drops, about 1/4 teaspoon of bleach, instead of 8. There should be a slight chlorine odor.
- Use water purification tablets or iodine that many sports and camping stores sell.
Irrigation watering was temporarily banned citywide as a result of the water main break, but that part of the notice has since been rescinded. People living in the city are now allowed to turn back on their automatic irrigation and sprinkler systems. The initial ban was part of an effort to conserve available water resources.
Where to get water now
The Tampa Parks and Recreation Department will distribute free bottled water to people living in the area. Most people will be limited to one case per household, although homes with more than four members can get two cases. Nobody will be required to show identification.
Free face coverings will also be distributed. People can pick up two face masks per person.
Bottled and water and face coverings can be picked up from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Then, pick up will be from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday -- while supplies last.
Below are the four pick-up locations:
- Himes Ave. Sports Complex - 4501 S. Himes Ave
- MacFarlane Park - 1700 N. MacDill Ave. (near the basketball courts – turn onto Main St. from MacDill Ave)
- Al Barnes Park - 2902 N. 32nd St.
- New Tampa Community Center - 17302 Commerce Park Blvd.
Repairs are underway
Crews continue to work to make the necessary fixes to the water system.
"The pressure immediately started going back up in the system when we got it shut down. That was the first step," Baird said. "The second step will be to dewater the site behind me so the contractor will be able to dig down on that pipe tonight and determine how that repair will be made."
The work being done was a part of the first phase of a $300-million improvement project for the city. Baird says all the protocols were taken before the work started. All pipelines were located and marked.
"This certainly isn’t the desired scenario you want to happen on any project. We don't know what went wrong. The contractor did all of the things they were supposed to do," Baird said.
Hillsborough County School Board member Karen Perez tweeted several schools and other ancillary sites have been affected by the break.
In a statement Tuesday, a Hillsborough County Schools spokesperson wrote, "Principals at impacted schools within the city have communicated with parents that water bottles will be on hand, and bathrooms are functional. Most of our schools already have water bottles on hand because we don’t allow the use of traditional water fountains during COVID."
Busch Gardens closed its park for the rest of the day Monday and said it will remain closed Tuesday.
"We are actively working with the appropriate community contacts and will share additional updates to park operations when available," it said on its website.
AdventHealth Tampa in a news release said it has activated emergency management teams and is following preparedness protocols. That includes distributing bottled and flushable water to all its departments.
"We are also implementing necessary triage measures for emergency cases to prevent any impacts on patient care," the hospital system said, adding AdventHealth Carrollwood has not been impacted by the boil water notice.
Tampa General Hospital said it, too, is taking steps to keep patients safe. Its staff will supply bottled water to patients, and leaders are making arrangements with the state to have water delivered to the hospital.
More details about the precautionary boil water notice are posted on the city's website. People with questions can call Tampa Utility Services at 813-274-8811 during normal business hours.
People elsewhere in Hillsborough County can call the Hillsborough County Water Resources Department at 813-744-5600.
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