Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Water votes to sue three companies over reservoir cracks

CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay Water voted Monday to sue the three companies responsible for building its $146-million reservoir over cracks that are limiting the capacity of the reservoir during the ongoing drought.

The reservoir problems could lead to tighter water restrictions, officials said.

The region is facing "extreme water shortage conditions as the summer rainy season ends," Don Polmann, the utility's science and engineering director, wrote in a memo to the board.

If it weren't for the cracks, said the utility's senior manager, Alison Adams, "I could've filled that reservoir up" with another 3-billion gallons of water at the end of the summer.

Instead, the utility stopped filling the 15-billion gallon reservoir in August, and it is now less than half full at 5.7-billion gallons.

Meanwhile, summer turned out to be drier than expected, and the Hillsborough River is running a third of what was predicted, Adams said.

So the utility is running its desalination plant at its capacity of 25-million gallons a day.

"I'm trying to get the reservoir to last until April, if we're lucky," Adams told the board.

The utility board voted 8-0 Monday to sue the three companies responsible for building the facility: HDR Engineering, which designed the reservoir; Barnard Construction Co., which built it; and Construction Dynamics Group, which oversaw the construction. The board also agreed to fire HDR from its job of filing monitoring reports on the reservoir. Board members agreed they wanted to make sure those companies paid for fixing the cracks.

"On behalf of the ratepayers and the taxpayers, I want to make sure the cost of repairs is not borne by them," Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda, a utility board member, said before the vote.

HDR spokeswoman Jackie Cox said the company was disappointed about being fired and sued, because "it is our belief that a great many questions remain to be answered as to the soil cement issues at the reservoir, and any legal action is premature."

The regional 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 reservoir, named for the longtime congressman from Pinellas County, is the largest in Florida, covering about 1,100 acres.

The reservoir's walls consist of an earthen embankment as wide as a football field at its base, averaging about 50 feet high, with an impermeable membrane buried in the embankment to prevent leaks. The top layer of the embankment is a mixture of soil and cement to prevent erosion, and that's what cracked in December 2006. Some cracks were up to 400 feet long and up to 15 1/2 inches deep.

Water officials say that the residents living around the reservoir shouldn't worry about the walls failing and inundating their homes.

Engineers concluded that "filling the reservoir up and draining it … the action of lowering the water level" is causing the cracks, Polmann said. Water is getting under the top soil-cement layer instead of draining into the reservoir and is producing pressure under the layer.

Tampa Bay Water votes to sue three companies over reservoir cracks 10/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 2:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Joss Whedon's ex-wife accuses him of cheating, being 'hypocrite preaching feminist ideals'


    Joss Whedon made his name directing cult television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and big-budget action movies, which often featured women in empowering roles. Many applauded him for being a champion of women, a feminist in an industry accused of misogyny and sexism.

    Joss Whedon at the screening of "Much Ado About Nothing" in 2014. Whedon's ex-wife Kai Cole alleged in an essay published by The Wrap on Sunday that Whedon had multiple affairs during their 16-year marriage. (Associated Press)
  2. Pasco school's parents, principal seek compromise on behavior plan


    Leaders of a Pasco County elementary school that has come under criticism for its new behavior plan have offered an alternative model that sticks to its goals while also better considering younger children who might not understand the original terminology.

    This is the original chart that upset parents with wording such as "anarchy" and "conform to peer pressure" without any context.
  3. Jon Gruden, Rex Ryan meet with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston on 'Hard Knocks'


    One of the interesting guest stars on HBO's "Hard Knocks", which covers every minute of the Bucs' training camp and preseason, has been Jon Gruden. The legendary former Tampa Bay coach has popped up from time …

    In a teaser clip from episode 3 of "Hard Knocks", Jon Gruden and fellow former coach Rex Ryan meet with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston to discuss his past and future in the NFL. [HBO/NFL FILMS]
  4. German police seize thousands of 'Trump' ecstasy tablets


    BERLIN — German police say they have seized thousands of tablets of the party drug ecstasy in the shape of Donald Trump's head, a haul with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900.)

    This undated  picture provided by Polizeiinspektion Osnabrueck police shows an ecstasy pill. German police say they have seized thousands of ecstasy pills in the shape of President Donald Trump's head, a haul  with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900). Police in Osnabrueck, in northwestern Germany, say they found the drugs during a check Saturday evening on an Austrian-registered car on the A30 highway. [Police Osnabrueck via AP]
  5. Bucs bring back long snapper Andrew DePaola to compete


    Just 12 days before the NFL makes its final cuts, the Bucs have added another position battle, signing back long snapper Andrew DePaola to compete with veteran Garrison Sanborn.

    Andrew DePaola is making an impressive recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in last year's season finale against Carolina in January.  [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]