Frontier contractors dumped over 500,000 gallons of reclaimed water in Pinellas County in the past month | Tampa Bay News | Tampa
Last month, Frontier Communications contractors were named in several incidents of spillage of recovered water, totaling more than 500,000 gallons.
The spills happened when three different contractors working for Frontier hit water pipes and released the water in small amounts, except for a huge spill of half a million gallons on January 19.
Vertek LLC, while working for Frontier, hit an eight-inch water pipe causing it to rupture, Pinellas County reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The spill lasted four hours, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. During this time, water spilled out and saturated the area before entering Boca Ciega Bay.
Luckily the water was already treated reclaimed water (the one people use to water their lawns) and not sewage. However, this was just one of many water main breaks Frontier contractors caused in January, costing the county money and disrupting service to customers.
According to the FDEP spill map for the past 30 days, six spills occurred at the hands of three different Frontier contractors in the Madeira Beach area. The companies named on the FDEP website are: Vertek LLC, Conquest Engineering and MasTec engineering.
Kevin King, senior water quality management specialist for Pinellas County, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that crews are installing fiber optic lines in the area.
All of the spills were caused by the contractors hitting salvaged water pipes during their work. Most were small compared to the large spill. The second largest was 3,056 gallons reported on January 17, and the third largest was 2,000 gallons, reported on January 14. The six spills combined totaled 507,635 gallons.
CL has contacted Frontier Communications to find out why these spills occurred and what precautions are being taken to prevent these water spills, but has not yet received a response. This post will be updated if there is one.
After water main breaks like this, Pinellas County must make repairs for its citizens and then try to get the money back from the businesses later.
“We take pictures and we estimate the dollar amounts spent on repairs, and then our risk management department eventually recovers the money,” Jeremy Capes, division manager of water quality and data management for Pinellas County. “It can take anywhere, I would say months to years, depending on the dollar amount, and whether it’s disputed by the company or not.”
Companies sometimes dispute repair charges, Capes said, but that’s not the norm. Last year, the county also began naming companies involved in major breaches and issuing county FDEP fines to companies for spills.
Pinellas County confirmed that before contractors dug, they followed a Florida law called The Underground Facilities Safety and Damage Prevention Actwhich requires any digging company to contact the county and have an area assessed and marked to prevent damage to infrastructure.
Capes said that even if the area was scarred, the damage could have occurred for a number of reasons, including the type of machinery the companies used and the depth to which they were digging.
He said he thinks communication between the county and businesses is key going forward.
“We hope the contractors and the county can work more closely in the future,” he said.