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Utility company notifies customers to boil water a day after outage

LAND O'LAKES — The Florida Governmental Utility Authority issued a precautionary boil-water warning after a power outage on Sunday afternoon but didn't notify customers until the next day.

The affected communities are Cypress Cove, Foxwood and Paradise Lakes, areas that used to be serviced by Mad Hatter Utility.

"These were extenuating circumstances," FGUA spokesman Matthew Rihs said. "We've learned from this experience and we're making policy changes (so) we can provide for more timely reporting, and we do apologize to our customers."

According to Rihs, a tree branch fell on a Duke energy transformer and service was interrupted for a few hours on Sunday. When it was restored, Rihs said FGUA evaluated the situation and began taking steps to notify its customers to boil water as a precaution. Generally, he said, outages affect as few as 300 customers and the company can send out technicians to hang notices on doors. Because of the large number of customers affected this time, he said FGUA had to coordinate with Pasco emergency services to send out reverse 911 calls and place electronic signs at the entrances of the affected communities.

The signs and calls went out on Monday, he said.

Several residents told the Times they got calls, but others said they didn't, and were unsure if their water was potable.

Cheryl Croteau, owner of the Breakfast Nook in Lutz, said she threw out 1,000 pounds of ice and couldn't serve soda out of her machine because of the boil notice. She said she found out about it from her son, but didn't get a call.

"I think if the water had bacteria we should've been notified Sunday night, not Monday," she said. "It's just really odd we were notified 24 hours later."

Rihs said the warning came from a pressure issue, and not a break in a line.

Bruce Howarth, who lives on Lake Heron Drive, said he was "confused and dazed" by the FGUA response.

"They said it has been resolved but didn't say if you could stop boiling your water," he said.

The warning should be lifted today, Rihs said, pending some tests. Concerned customers should keep an eye on the electronic message boards, he said, and expect more reverse 911 calls. They can also visit FGUA online for updates at www.FGUA.com.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Jon Silman at (727) 869-6229, Jsilman@tampabay.com or @Jonsilman1 on Twitter.

Utility company notifies customers to boil water a day after outage 07/02/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 10:17pm]
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