Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dirt biker finds Oldsmar's leaky pipe

OLDSMAR — The search spanned 36 hours.

Attempting to find the site of a water main break that left much of Oldsmar with little or no water over the weekend, city officials dispatched two helicopters to try to detect the problem from overhead. Public works employees fanned out to find out why the water was not flowing through a network of 4,000 valves. Officials brought in a consultant.

But in the end, it was not technology that saved the day. It was a man on a dirt bike.

Weary of a second day of not having water, he set out by himself to look for the cause. And he found it: a broken 8-inch pipe.

"That does make us look bad," acknowledged Oldsmar Vice Mayor Jerry Beverland as he stood on scene shortly after the Sunday afternoon discovery.

"I'm appreciative it was found and I compliment the employees that put their hearts into it. … But something in the system is broke down," he said. "We are going to find what happened and we are going to find why it happened and we are going to find a solution so that it won't happen again."

The leak was located north of Tampa Road, obscured by a water-filled drainage ditch beside the 580 Corporate Center business plaza. That's on the eastern edge of the city.

The break was difficult to spot, said city spokeswoman Ann Stephan.

"It was going straight into the storm drain and, with all the storms lately, it's not uncommon to see a lot of water in the storm drain," she said. "It's an 8-inch pipe in a city that's over 10 square miles, so it's finding a needle in a haystack. But we were able to find it because of a community effort."

Still, the 14,000 or so residents of the city aren't out of the woods.

By the time the source was discovered, pressure had been restored to at least the western third of the city. The remainder of the city had water restored around 8:30 p.m.

Residents were advised to boil the tap water while officials determine if the system has been contaminated. The city said all its customers should heat water at a rolling boil for 1 minute before drinking or cooking with it.

Those tests on the system could take days.

The leak, discovered about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, closed restaurants, halted showers and prompted city public works personnel to scour the city by truck and helicopter. City officials announced the source was located around 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

The man who found it — and who would identify himself only as "Roy" — told Bay News 9 he was a resident of 30 years who set out on a search at 8:30 a.m. because he wanted water. The TV station contacted city officials about the discovery.

"We wish we had his name because we'd like to recognize him," Stephan said. "Not everyone would go ahead and start looking. Obviously, it's someone who cares about our community. And when somebody is involved like that, it's a tremendous thing."

Though grateful, elected leaders said they were frustrated that it was a biker, not a city employee, who unraveled the mystery and that it took so long.

Mayor Jim Ronecker — speaking by phone Sunday afternoon from his home, where his family hadn't showered in two days — complained of a lack of communication, saying he was learning details through the media.

The mayor said he "absolutely" planned to take a closer look at the water department.

"I appreciate staff working as hard as they could the last 48 hours. I know they've given their 110 percent. But I do think we had some errors along the way that need to be corrected and dealt with," Ronecker said, adding: "We're going to review everything top to bottom, from the voice mailboxes being full to not getting information out in a timely manner."

Beverland, who said he was forced to take a sponge bath with bottled water Sunday, said he thought the break should have been discovered earlier.

However, he said blame shouldn't be placed on city workers, whom he praised for working around the clock and weathering a strong thunderstorm.

"Everyone worked diligently to get to this point, but it has to be found by somebody on a bike. That sounds real close to being unacceptable," Beverland said.

Both elected officials acknowledged the economic toll the outage took on restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

"It's been an inconvenience for everybody. As mayor, I apologize," Ronecker said.

Dirt biker finds Oldsmar's leaky pipe 07/22/12 [Last modified: Sunday, July 22, 2012 9:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Off-duty Manatee County deputy saves couple from burning car

    Public Safety

    MANATEE COUNTY — Neil and Claudia Cook are lucky to be alive after an off-duty deputy spotted them trapped in their smoking car and rescued them just before it became engulfed in flames on Sunday.

    Neil and Claudia Cook were trapped in their smoking car on Sunday when an off-duty deputy kicked out the window, rescuing them just before the car became engulfed in flames. [Courtesy of Manatee County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Hillary Clinton said her 'skin crawled' when Donald Trump stood behind her on debate stage

    National

    In her most detailed public comments about what happened during the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said her "skin crawled" as Donald Trump loomed behind her on the stage in St. Louis last October.

    Hillary Clinton speaks as Donald Trump listens during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2016. In her upcoming book, Clinton says "It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled." [Pool photo by Rick T. Wilking via AP]
  3. After 17 years, Pasco-Hernando State College attorney steps away

    College

    The longtime attorney for Pasco-Hernando State College has resigned for what he says are "purely personal reasons."

    Steve Schroeder, the general council for Pasco-Hernando State College, resigned last week. His last day will be Sept. 8.
  4. Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car

    Autos

    SAN FRANCISCO — As new employees were brought into Apple's secret effort to create a self-driving car a few years ago, managers told them that they were working on the company's next big thing: A product that would take on Detroit and disrupt the automobile industry.

     In this Monday, April 10, 2017 file photo, Luminar CEO Austin Russell monitors a 3D lidar map on a demonstration drive in San Francisco. Russell, now 22, was barely old enough to drive when he set out to create a safer navigation system for robot-controlled cars. His ambitions are about to be tested five years after he co-founded Luminar Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup trying to steer the rapidly expanding self-driving car industry in a new direction. Apple says it will scale back its amitions to build a self-driving car.  [AP Photo/Ben Margot]
  5. Studies: Automated safety systems are preventing car crashes

    Autos

    WASHINGTON — Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or that warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday.

    A side mirror warning signal is shown in a Ford Taurus at an automobile testing area in Oxon Hill, Md., in 2012. Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. [Associated Press]