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SR 580 lanes close for plumbing job

After ripping up pavement, transportation workers find a rusty pipe that no one knew existed leaking beneath the road.

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 24, 2000


OLDSMAR -- State workers tore up a chunk of the new State Road 580 on Tuesday, closing eastbound lanes from State Street to Bayview Boulevard after water was found bubbling from the asphalt.

Heavy machinery sent by the Florida Department of Transportation ripped open a hole 2 to 3 feet deep, more than 30 feet wide and about 14 feet long so workers could search for the water source. They found a leaky 2-inch city water pipe that does not show up on Oldsmar utility maps.

"No one knew it existed," said John Mulvihill, Oldsmar public works director.

A rusted valve in the pipe, which dates to the 1940s, sprang a leak that slowly pushed water to the top of the road. By Tuesday afternoon, the city had shut off the water to the pipe and DOT workers were beginning to patch the road, which opened in 1997.

"Unfortunately, now we have a piece of (asphalt) patch on a new state road," said Ron Winter, DOT spokesman.

Oldsmar officials initially denied that the water was coming from a city water pipe. Utility workers had shut off the pipes in the area and conducted tests that determined none of the city's pipes were leaking.

But city workers could only test the pipes they knew about.

"That's one we didn't know was in there," said Fred Schildhauer, city engineer.

The pipe, part of the city's old water system, juts to the middle of the eastbound lanes of SR 580. The pipe doesn't serve any water customers but was still pressurized because it was connected to the city's current system.

"It should have been taken out when the new road was built," Mulvihill said.

The cost of the road repairs, about $7,000, will be billed to the city, Winter said.

Schildhauer said when the city installed the old water system, it kept poor records on the location of the pipes. There is no telling how many more pipes are under the ground without the city's knowledge.

This isn't the first time there have been problems because of unmapped city utility lines.

The city is embroiled in a lawsuit with DOT and Kimmins Contracting Corp., which was hired by the state to widen Tampa Road from two to six lanes. Completion of the project to widen the 2.2 miles of Tampa Road was delayed by 331 days.

Kimmins claims that utility plans supplied by the city did not accurately label where the city's water pipes were located and delayed the project at a cost to the company. The company filed numerous claims against the city.

First, Kimmins sued DOT for the delays. Then DOT sued Oldsmar, claiming the city is liable for damages the state might incur. Then Oldsmar filed a counterclaim against the state, contending that DOT failed to manage a portion of the widening project that involved the relocation of city utilities.

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