Tampa restaurants, residents trying to make do with boil-water challenge

By Chris Hopper, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2013

City of Tampa water customers are still being asked to boil their water today after a power outage shut down the system's water treatment facility yesterday.

"It's kinda a hassle. Nothing you can do about it," Belinda Llanes, a resident said. "But roll with the punches."

Water quality staff began testing Saturday afternoon and has said the precautionary boil water notice will not be lifted for any customers within the City of Tampa water service area until at earliest Sunday morning.

Based on the water quality test results, an update will be sent early Sunday morning for customers who can discontinue the precautionary boil water notice.

When dealing with the water boil notice, some residents feel they have no control.

"Very frustrating because they are saying take quick showers and I don't take quick showers," Cheryl Mosley, another resident said. "I have kids at home plus my dog and I don't want him drinking that water."

Authorities say an animal, probably a rodent, chewed through a power line, briefly disabling the David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility about 5:30 a.m. yesterday.

That prompted an unprecedented 48-hour notice advising customers to boil any tap water used for drinking, cooking, washing fruits or vegetables, making ice or brushing teeth.

The notice impacts some 560,000 people - about 100,000 of whom live outside the city of Tampa limits in Hillsborough County - and lasts until Monday morning.

It's a huge inconvenience for restaurants such as Nicki's Omelette & Grill on Hillsborough Avenue.

Early today, owner Louis Nguyen loaded his car with bottled water and brought it to the restaurant. The popular breakfast place was serving all of its menu items, but no tea, soda or tap water.

Water was being boiled for coffee, grits, gravy and other items.

Servers were giving customers who didn't want coffee a bottle of water and an empty glass.

"It's a tough day, but it's better than staying closed the whole day and losing a lot of money," Nguyen said.

The water crisis was actually caused by a series of events, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The first of those occurred when the rodent chewed through the power line.

That line is one of two that serves the plant, and the second one failed around 1:30 p.m. from being overloaded.

A switch gear then burned out, delaying the process of switching the plant to emergency power.

The water treatment plant produces about 95 percent of the 68 million gallons of water consumed by Tampa water customers per day. It has three generators to provide backup power, but while the main power was out, some areas of Tampa lost water pressure.

The generators kicked in around 2:30 p.m., and Tampa Electric restored an hour later. By then, though, the damage had been done.