After three days of uncertainty, the water supply for city of Tampa customers was declared safe to drink again Thursday once two rounds of testing showed no contamination.
The 9:43 a.m. order to rescind a Monday night boil-water notice beat the city’s estimates by several hours, said Brad Baird, the city’s deputy administrator for infrastructure and mobility.
Businesses and residents using their water for the first time again were advised to run their taps to help remove stagnant water from plumbing systems and bring in fresh water from water mains.
Water pressure plummeted Monday when a contractor hit a 36-inch pressurized transmission main at the David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility on the Hillsborough River near the Rogers Park Golf Course. The breach sucked the plant’s clean, treated water supply out into the city’s streets, flooding areas such as 30th Street north of Sligh Avenue with knee-deep water.
The damage resulted in the loss of 12 million gallons of water through the plant, which produces 81 million gallons of treated drinking water a day for customers in the city and surrounding areas. The Tampa Water Department serves an estimated 717,000 people and more than 14,200 fire hydrants.
The breach happened as crews with design-build team CHM Hill and prime subcontractor Archer Western were working to connect the 36-inch cast-iron pipe, in use since 1941, to new 48-inch and 54-inch pipelines that the city installed two years ago, Baird said.
The worker responsible for the break was shoring up the older pipeline with a pile driver when he accidentally pierced its side, Baird said.
“This particular pipeline was at the end of its useful life, but it had not failed,” he said. “We had never had a failure ever in its history.”
Crews take precautions to prevent accidents, including the use of ground-penetrating radar to mark their locations.
“But even with all of those safeguards, sometimes there’s human error. And that’s what happened in this case.”
The work is part of the $2.88 billion PIPES program approved in September to revamp the city’s infrastructure.
It will likely take two to three weeks for the city to determine the cost of damages from the pipe break. A new section of pipe had to be purchased, installed and disinfected, the old pipe had to be removed and discarded, and two sets of safety tests run on 24 water samples taken from throughout the 220-square-mile service area.