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Faster faucets on tap

The water department plans to replace roughly 14 miles of South Tampa lines, which may bring with it stronger water pressure.

By JENNIFER L. STEVENSON and PATTY RYAN
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 1, 2002


TAMPA -- You know the drill: Shower first, then flush the toilet. And don't do laundry if the sprinklers are running.

Water pressure problems go hand in hand with life in Tampa's oldest neighborhoods, some of which rely on 75-year-old city pipes. The outdated mains -- too narrow and clogged with mineral deposits -- often can't keep up with demand.

Nearly one-fourth of the city's 2,200 miles of water lines are undersized, says Mark Oural, chief engineer for the Tampa Water Department.

That's no surprise to Marie Ballon in Beach Park, who shudders whenever house guests head for the showers.

"It's a disaster if you have four people trying to go anywhere," she says.

There's little relief ahead for Ballon, but stronger water pressure may be in the works for some residents of Bayshore Beautiful, Bayshore Gardens, Palma Ceia, Virginia Park and Davis Islands, neighborhoods expected to benefit from a $4.7-million overhaul of water mains this year and early next.

The Tampa Water Department plans to replace roughly 14 miles of South Tampa lines, in most cases substituting 6-inch pipes for 2-inch.

Improved water pressure isn't the goal, Oural said. It's just a perk in a plan to feed fire hydrants with thicker lines and to get rid of old cast iron pipes. The hydrants can't be connected to 2-inch lines.

Residents who witnessed past pipe replacement programs say the new plumbing helps.

"I sensed an improvement when the lines were replaced that served our street," said John LaRocca, president of the Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association.

So did Ann Johnson of Sunset Park, who made a habit of calling the Tampa Water Department and letting officials know of her water pressure problems.

"I called them every day," Johnson said. "We now have a new water pipe."

In October, the city replaced the two-inch main on her street, Longfellow Avenue, with a 6-inch pipe. Johnson's water pressure problems vanished.

"We were fortunate," said her husband, Wofford Johnson, president of the Sunset Park Area Homeowners Association. "The infrastructure is old and inadequate throughout most of South Tampa."

Beach Park residents recently cited water pressure concerns when they opposed plans for the Gables, a proposed residential development south of Kennedy Boulevard.

David Tippin, director of the Tampa Water Department, largely dismisses water pressure problems in South Tampa.

"By code, we don't guarantee pressure in any way," Tippin said. "We don't guarantee maximum or minimum pressure."

The condition of the water main isn't the only factor that affects pressure, he said, noting that part of the blame may lie within the interior pipes of older homes, narrowed by decades of accumulated sediment.

"I had to have all of mine replaced," he said.

He lives in Sunset Park.

Replacing pipes in an average home could cost $2,500, said plumber Peter Ragano Sr.

Emily Purcell Reynolds, president of the Beach Park Homeowners Association, doesn't entirely buy Tippin's contention that household plumbing is to blame.

Her four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home was built in 1997.

"We have had terrible water pressure problems since the day we moved in," she said. "It was especially frustrating when we moved into a new home and we had worse water pressure than we did in a 1950s home."

If sprinklers are on, no one can shower, she said.

"The city says there's no problem," Reynolds said. "It's a problem if you are living with it."

Adam Krantz, a spokesman for the Water Infrastructure Network, says Tampa isn't the only locale struggling to replace its water lines.

"In some places, they're dealing with 120-year-old pipes," he said. "I wouldn't say yours are young. The ideal is to make sure that nothing is really over 50 years old."

-- Researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

-- Jennifer L. Stevenson can be reached at 226-3405. Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382.

Better showers in your future?

Roughly 14 miles of South Tampa water mains are targeted for replacement this year, at a cost of $4.7 million, as city-hired contractors pull up pipes that are too narrow, too old or too clogged.

For some residents, that could mean improved water pressure.

Tampa Water Department chief engineer Mark Oural said he can't predict when work will begin. But residents will be notified in advance, he said.

Here's a peek at projects on the drawing board.

BAYSHORE BEAUTIFUL

Project: 10,870 feet of 6-inch pipe and six fire hydrants.

Where:

  • On Bayshore Boulevard from Euclid Avenue to Fair Oaks Avenue.
  • On Bay Court Avenue from MacDill Avenue to Bayshore.
  • On Bay Vista Avenue from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Bay View Avenue from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Knights Avenue from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Wallcraft Avenue from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Harborview Avenue from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Lawn Avenue from MacDill to Bayshore.

Cost: $739,601.

BAYSHORE BEAUTIFUL

Where:

  • On Bayshore from Hawthorne Road to 300 feet south of Hawthorne.
  • On Asbury Place from Richards Street to Bayshore.
  • On Alline Street from MacDill to Richards.
  • On Richards from Asbury Place to Coachman Avenue
  • On Coachman from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Bayshore Court from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Villa Rosa Park from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Hawthorne from MacDill to Bayshore.

Cost: $894,786

BAYSHORE BEAUTIFUL:

Project: 1,750 feet of 8-inch pipe.

Where:

  • On Lawn between Bailey Avenue and MacDill.

Cost: $81,113.

DAVIS ISLANDS

Where

  • On West Davis Boulevard from Ladrone Avenue to West Davis.
  • On Martinique Avenue from Ladrone to Severn Avenue
  • On Severn from West Davis to Martinique.
  • On Lucerne Avenue from Martinique to Martinique.
  • On Madeira Avenue from West Davis to Martinique.
  • On Ladrone from West Davis to Martinique.
  • On Oconee Avenue from Superior Avenue to Ontario Boulevard
  • On Riviera Drive from Oconee to Ontario.

Cost: $600,000.

PALMA CEIA/BAYSHORE GARDENS

Project: 7,800 feet of 6-inch pipe, 1,500 feet of 8-inch pipe, 1,600 feet of 12-inch pipe and 10 fire hydrants.

Where:

  • On Bayshore from Bay to Bay Boulevard to Euclid.
  • On El Prado Boulevard from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Julia Street from MacDill to Bayshore.
  • On Concordia Avenue from El Prado to Palmira Avenue.
  • On Ferdinand Avenue from Bay to Bay to Palmira.
  • On MacDill from Bay to Bay to Palmira.
  • On Palmira from MacDill to Himes Avenue.

Cost: $762,008.

PORT TAMPA

Project: 5,060 feet of 6-inch-pipe, 4,980 feet of 8-inch-pipe, 600 feet of 12-inch-pipe and 18 fire hydrants.

Where:

  • On Ingraham Street from West of Marx to Shamrock Road.
  • On Germer Street from Ingraham to Idaho Street.
  • On Desoto Street from Ingraham to Chisholm Street.
  • On Shamrock from Ingraham to Chisholm.
  • On Paul Street from Ingraham to Commerce Street.
  • On Kissimmee Street from Bradley Street to Loughman Street.
  • On Bradley from Paul to Kissimmee.
  • On Chisholm from Westshore Boulevard to Shamrock.
  • On Westshore from Chisholm to Loughman.
  • On Loughman from Kissimmee to Westshore.

Cost: $771,413.

VIRGINIA PARK

Where

  • On Leona Street between Grady Avenue and Himes.
  • On Corona Street beteen Grady and Dale Mabry Highway.
  • On Corona between Sterling Avenue and Himes.
  • On Griflow Street between Dale Mabry and Sterling.
  • On Sevilla Street between Grady Avenue and Dale Mabry.
  • On Sevilla between Dale Mabry and Sterling.
  • On Sevilla between Sterling and Himes.
  • On Vasconia Street between Grady and Dale Mabry.
  • On Vasconia between Dale Mabry and Himes.
  • On Kensington Street between Grady and Dale Mabry.
  • On Kensington between Dale Mabry and Himes.
  • On Tampa Circle between West Euclid Avenue and Kensington.
  • On Tampa Circle between East Euclid and Kensington.
  • On Sterling Circle between West Euclid and Kensington.
  • On Sterling Circle between East Euclid and Kensington.

Cost: $815,777.

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