Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Water says it will seek expert guidance in repair of cracking reservoir

TAMPA — As Tampa Bay Water prepares to spend millions to fix its cracking reservoir in eastern Hillsborough County, the question remains: How does it know this fix will work, and that it's not just throwing good money after bad?

Early estimates put the repair costs at $125 million. The 15 billion-gallon above-ground reservoir, the first of its kind in Florida, cost $146 million to build.

Water officials say they'll pull together a team of experts from across the country to review plans for the repairs.

"We'll have many eyes looking at the job rather than just the engineers who work for Tampa Bay Water," said the utility's general manager, Gerald Seeber.

The panel will include reservoir owners and operators, regulators from other states, academics and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers.

"None of our engineers are experts at this," said Jon Kennedy, Tampa Bay Water's senior manager of engineering and projects.

When the utility was building the reservoir, it relied solely on its designer, HDR Engineering, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, to guarantee the project would work.

Utility officials now think water built up in a layer of soil between an impermeable membrane in the reservoir's embankment and a layer of soil-cement that lines its basin, and this caused cracks in the soil cement.

Repairs might include removing the middle layer, installing a drainage system to relieve pressure behind the soil cement, weighing down the lining, or a combination of all three.

Kennedy said Tampa Bay Water hopes to learn from what happens at a 6 billion-gallon above-ground reservoir in DeSoto County managed by the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority. That reservoir is set to begin operating next month.

Designed by MWH Americas, it has a drainage system to prevent water buildup, said Pat Lehman, executive director of the Peace River authority.

Engineers also made some adjustments to the soil cement lining after problems emerged at the reservoir in Hillsborough.

"A lot of things have been learned from the Tampa Bay experience," Lehman said.

The DEP has required the authority to closely monitor water accumulation behind the soil cement.

"By collecting that data, we will be able to monitor the effectiveness of that drained system and compare it to our system that's undrained," Kennedy said.

The utility opened the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir in June 2005 as a place to store water skimmed from the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Tampa Bypass Canal.

The cracks were discovered 18 months later.

The utility's board voted last year to sue HDR Engineering, which designed the reservoir; Barnard Construction Co., which built it; and Construction Dynamics Group, which oversaw the construction. The board also fired HDR from its job of filing monitoring reports on the reservoir. The federal case is set for trial in 2011.

Intended to hold 15 billion gallons of water and provide 25 percent of the region's drinking water, the reservoir will be closed for two years beginning in June 2012 while repairs are made.

Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.

About the reservoir

>> The reservoir, which cost $146 million to build, opened in 2005, but cracks were discovered a year later. The gray lines on the lining are repairs made to some of the cracks.

>> The 15 billion-gallon reservoir will be closed for two years beginning in June 2012. Repairs could cost $125 million.

>> Why the cracks? Utility officials think water built up in a layer of soil in the East Hillsborough County reservoir. Repairs might include removing the reservoir's middle layer, installing a drainage system and/or weighing down the lining.

Tampa Bay Water says it will seek expert guidance in repair of cracking reservoir 06/05/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 6, 2009 8:07am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.