Tampa Water makes fixes after squirrel, sagging power lines, switch cause boil water advisory

Squirrel gnawed through power lines

TAMPA - "It really is an act of God and a series of events that were unlikely," said Brad Baird, Director Tampa Water.

Three unusual events, including a squirrel, sagging lines, and a switch, set off Tampa's water woes this weekend.

"A squirrel climbed down in the stand pipe you see next to the pole and chewed through the lines and that shorted out the electrical feed," said Baird.

Half-way up a charred power pole, there is now a cap on the tube to keep vermin out.  It is one of two feeds powering Tampa's water treatment plant on 30th Street North.

Director Brad Baird says a second power source, which stretches overhead, was the next to go.

"One of the lines had a little bit of blue flames going across," he said. 

Sagging power lines that blew too close together in the wind caught fire and surged, sending a double shot of electricity flowing to a nearby switch. The switch exploded and caught on fire, preventing diesel back-up power from kicking in.

"On both sides of this issue, our folks just worked tirelessly to make that happen, and of course, we worked around the clock to sample and test the water," said Baird.

All 25 of those water samples came up clear.

Still, the boil water advisory could cost the City of Tampa.  The city will pay overtime to crews including electricians, mechanical engineers and field crews. A risk management spokesperson also says businesses who lost customers could file claims against the city. 

You can call 813-274-8811 if you can prove your business lost money over the weekend.

Now there's talk of grounding these power lines which could cost thousands more, a running bill that started with a squirrel in a tight spot.

"I did not see it, but my operator saw what was left of it," said Baird.

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