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Residents of eight homes evacuated as Tampa works to repair burst water pipe

Workers continue repairs at the site of a water main break at N Rome Avenue and W Henry Avenue in Tampa. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
Published Jun. 8, 2018

TAMPA — Authorities evacuated eight homes in the area of Rome Avenue near Hillsborough Avenue as they worked to repair a 24-inch water transmission line that burst in the River Bend neighborhood Thursday afternoon.

The break occurred around 5:15 pm and created a large crater on Rome, swallowing part a white picket fence.

No one was hurt and all the residents forced from their homes are staying nearby with friends and family, said Brad Baird, the city's Administrator of Public Works and Utility Services.

Just north of the flooding, Nataly Rovira said her family's lumber yard's parking lot was flooded, but their lumber was raised off the ground and wasn't damaged.

"We were lucky," Rovira said, in the drying parking lot of North Rome Lumber and Hardware.

The flooded street and houses was the latest example in a recent rash of water main breaks in the city. Aging infrastructure plays a role, said the city's water director Chuck Weber, but so does the rain and temperature swings, which expand and contract the soil around buried pipes, putting more pressure on them.

The city averages about one main break a day, but most are minor.

"This is a bad one. This is a big one," said Weber to assembled TV crews and media as contractors hurriedly made repairs behind him.

The city will pay for any flood-related damages and will pick up any damaged household items like furniture for free, he said.

The water line should be fixed by Friday evening, but repairs to Rome Avenue should take about a week, Weber said.

River Bend residents had already been inconvenienced for weeks earlier this year with part of Rome Avenue was closed off for the construction of a retention pond, a stormwater mitigation project for the Armature Works development downriver.

RELATED COVERAGE River Bend residents pay stormwater tab for Armature Works

Standing outside a small green house, owner Brandon Melendez said his tenants — a family of four, including one child — were told they had to relocate for three days because of electrical damage. He said most of the damage to the property was in the front yard, which had been reduced to a mud patch Friday morning as crews worked nearby.

The pipe was originally laid in 1954 and repaired in 1976. It appeared age may have played a role in the break, but some fittings called a "megalug" used to attach pipe sections may also have been improperly installed, Weber said.

The city hasn't yet estimated the amount of water spilled or the cost, he said.

Water pressure was back to normal by 7:30 p.m. Thursday, but residents are being asked to boil their water for consumption until tests come back Sunday.

Showering and other uses like washing dishes are safe, Weber said.

The line carries water south from the city's David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility near North 30th Street and East Slight Avenue.

ICYMI: A Precautionary Boil Water Notice is in place for residents & businesses within the area of I-275 to the east, Dale Mabry Hwy to the west, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr Blvd to the south & Busch Blvd to the north. pic.twitter.com/KRd4Hvnxxz

Times staff writer Jonathan Capriel contributed to this report. Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago

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