Punctured pipe propels water skyward in Orlando

by Rene Stutzman, originally posted on April 12, 2016


A construction crew ripped open a 30-inch city water line at Interstate 4 and Colonial Drive in Orlando on Tuesday, sending a tower of water 12 feet into the air, flooding a street and, for a few hours, requiring thousands of people downtown to stop drinking tap water.

The break prompted a private school to send students home early, and for a time, everyone at all 14 downtown Orange County facilities — including judges, lawyers and felons at the courthouse — to stop drinking tap water.

The Orlando Utilities Commission, owner of the water line, issued a precautionary boil water order shortly before noon for much of downtown but later scaled back.

By mid-afternoon, all county facilities were given the all-clear, and OUC spokesman Tim Trudell said at that point only about 50 customers were affected, mostly businesses within a quarter mile radius of the break.

Still that includes residents of two major apartment complexes on Orange Avenue north of Colonial Drive that are home to more than 800 people: Park Avenue North at Cheney Place and SteelHouse Apartments.

Also under the boil-water order: the 40 employees at the U.S. Attorney’s Office on West Washington Street, said spokesman William Daniels.

In general, customers should boil their water if they are north of Concord Street, south of Marks Street, west of Orange Avenue and east of Lexington Avenue, Trudell said.

The accident happened about 10 a.m. on the northeast corner of I-4 and Colonial Drive, one of the busiest interchanges in Orlando.

A crew from SGL Constructors, the main contractor on the mammoth I-4 makeover, had dug down to the line as part of its assignment to rebuild the interchange, said Dave Parks, a consultant with the Florida Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the six-year project.

The crew could see the 30-inch water line, Parks said.

“They were in the process of placing a steel trench box in that hole to protect the water line,” he said. “The box somehow hit the water line.”

That punched a hole in it, sending water gushing 12 to 15 feet into the air, a sight that prompted motorists to stop and take photographs.

No one was hurt, Parks said.

The temporary water emergency prompted St. James Cathedral School to dismiss classes for the rest of the day shortly after noon.

For some customers, water pressure dropped so low the utility could no longer guarantee that its tap water was safe, so it advised them to boil water before drinking it.

Only one OUC customer lost all water service, Trudell said, but many downtown saw their water pressure drop as crews slowed the flow of water to make the repair.


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