Repairs complete, but Tampa boil-water notice remains in place

Early Wednesday morning, city officials were keeping their fingers crossed that all of their water testing results came back negative for bacteria after a massive water main break Monday caused a possible contamination in the city of Tampa

Indeed, a negative test was a big positive for the city Wednesday as the first round of water testing showed no evidence of contamination. But the city’s infrastructure deputy administrator Brad Baird says they’re not out of the woods yet.

“There’s two rounds of testing that are done, and we have 24 sampling locations that we agreed to with the health department,” he said.

Until that second round of testing comes back clear, the precautionary boil water notice remains in effect for the entire city and those living in certain areas of Hillsborough County, specifically those living in Eastlake, Fairview, Herschel Heights, Pebble Creek, Palm River, and Seaboard.

Busch Gardens was closed Wednesday, but announced it would reopen Thursday and resume regular operations Thursday, Dec. 10. However, the park said it would "temporarily modify some culinary options until the city confirms that water is safe for consumption."

If a resident has well water, city officials said it is safe to use since it is not part of the city's water system.

A city spokesman says the water main was ruptured Monday as crews were working on a pipeline interconnection, which has to be completed before a new pumping station can be built.  The current pumping station was built 95 years ago in 1925, and the pipe that ruptured has been in use since 1941.  

Repairs were completed Wednesday, but there still are a lot of unknowns, like how much water was lost.

“We have performed two different calculations, but we need to drop back and calculate that and reconcile those numbers, so we do not have a final number on how much water was lost at this point,” Baird said.

RELATED: Boiling and bottling: Tampa businesses and residents adapt after water main break

Over the last two days, residents have waited in long lines for a case of water. 

“I have a little dog at home [that] I’m using the bottled water for, so I wanted to come here,” said one resident, Inez Fiol.

Tuesday alone, they handed out more than 4,000 cases, free of charge. 

Costs associated with this pipeline break, Baird says, will be figured out with the city’s risk management group and the insurance company of Jacobs Engineering, which is the main contractor on this project.

A boil-alert means:

Before using water to drink, cook, make ice, or brush teeth, the city says residents should take one of these precautions to disinfect tap water to kill any bacteria or viruses that may have entered the water:

  • Bring the water to a rolling boil and hold 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 1/8 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) instead of eight. There should be a slight chlorine odor.
  • Use water purification tablets or iodine sold at many sports and camping stores.