City of Tampa says water woes began with a squirrel - WFLA News Channel 8

City of Tampa says water woes began with a squirrel

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

It started with a squirrel. A power outage at the city of Tampa's main water treatment plant began just after 5 A.M. Friday. The city says the problem began when a squirrel crawled into a pipe on a primary power line. The squirrel chewed through the line, and started a small fire. City director Brad Baird says the system is designed to switch over to a back up power line. The back up power comes from a separate power generating station from TECO. Baird says a workers were completing repairs to the first power line, the back up failed. Baird says the back up power line sagged, then wind blew it into another power line. Baird says, " It sagged to the point, where when the wind was blowing the lines got a little too close together and resulted in an arc."

Baird says when the line arced, it sent a surge through the system and caused an explosion and another fire at a switch that should have allowed back up generators to take over. Baird says, " When you have both systems, or both feeds shorting out and one of the shorts ended up burning up the switch that serves our standby power facilities, you had three unlikely events occur in a row."

The loss of power caused a loss of water pressure in throughout the city of Tampa. Baird says when there is no pressure in the system, ground water can penetrate cracks in underground water lines. As a result the health department advised the city to issue a precautionary boil water notice.

The notice caused several restaurants to close on Friday. Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant, and P.F. Changs at the Westshore Mall both closed. At Shells restaurant on Dale Mabry, manager John Christen says he had to scramble to stay open. Christen says, " We had to cash out all of our ice machines, go get sodas, bottled water, tea from publix."

Christen says he wasn't the only restaurant working to keep the doors open. Christen says, " When I went to wall mart I saw every single restaurant manager from Gandy to Hillsborough Boulevard or Hillsborough Avenue all getting their sodas and their waters."

The city of Tampa says they've already received calls from some business owners looking to recover damages from the loss of water. The city says those calls are being referred to the risk management department, but it is not clear yet if the city will pay for business losses.

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