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Low water pressure generates complaint

Helen Jones had water at her Gulf Harbors home, but the taps produced just a trickle on Tuesday morning. A shower was out of the question.

"I took a bath and washed my hair in the pool this morning," Jones said with a weary smile.

Jones and nearly 2,700 Lindrick Utilities customers had just a dribble of water for two days after Hurricane Jeanne, as power outages left most of the system's water pumps without electricity until Tuesday afternoon. While other utilities have struggled with the same problem, however, state Rep. Heather Fiorentino thinks Lindrick could have avoided it.

The utility has the capability to receive water from New Port Richey, which had generators to keep its water pumps going, city Public Works director Tom O'Neill said. But Lindrick never asked.

"It kind of shocked me because I didn't hear a thing from Lindrick for any emergency supply whatsoever," O'Neill said.

Fiorentino, R-New Port Richey, grew concerned as she heard from Gulf Harbors residents. The utility wasn't telling residents to boil their water, a standard precaution to kill bacteria when water pressure drops. Without sufficient pressure, firefighters can't tap into the water lines in an emergency, she added.

Lindrick officials said there was no need to draw city water or issue a boil water notice, however.

Even with the power outages, the system maintained 15 pounds of pressure Monday, utilities manager Helen McNeil said.

"As long as we can keep some pressure and the water's flowing through, that feeds the chlorine in and you're all right," McNeil said Tuesday.

The pressure dropped for some customers, she said, because "we had people who were washing their driveways and people with their sprinkler systems on."

"Some people had water," McNeil said. "Some people had a trickle. Some people had a little bit more than that."

Fiorentino isn't convinced. She has brought the issue to the attention of the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, and the state Office of Public Counsel, which represents customers of utilities.

"No water _ for health reasons and security reasons, that's wrong," Fiorentino said.

Bridget Hall Grumet covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is hallsptimes.com.

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