Tampa Bay Water lawyer blames engineer for reservoir woes
After four weeks of technical and conflicting testimony in federal court, closing statements began Monday in the trial that will determine who pays to fix Tampa Bay Water's cracked reservoir. Tampa Bay Water is suing project engineer HDR, claiming it designed a broken reservoir in southeastern Hillsborough County. The agency's attorney Richard Harrison started his closing argument the way he opened the case, reminding jurors that HDR designed the reservoir, certified to the state that it was built correctly, insisted the cracking was not due to bad construction and that the reservoir is broken. Harrison said HDR's defense is built on fantasy and conspiracy theories. He will present the remainder of his closing statement on Tuesday morning. HDR's defense team will then present its argument.Tampa Bay Water provides water to Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties along with the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and New Port Richey. The regional water board built the C.W. Bill Young reservoir for $140 million to store 15.5 billion gallons of water from the Hillsborough and Alafia rivers, and the Tampa Bypass Canal during the rainy season. Five years ago an 8 On Your Side investigation revealed the soil cement lining the inner walls of the C.W. "Bill" Young Regional Reservoir was cracking severely. Some of the cracks were several hundred feet long. The soil cement helps prevent erosion. Tampa Bay Water hired consultants to investigate the cracking and they concluded the reservoir's design was at fault. Experts testified as the reservoir was drawn down, the water level in the reservoir water went down faster than the water beneath the soil cement. The lack of adequate drainage, they say, created pressure which in turn caused the cracking. Tampa Bay Water estimates it will cost more than $100 million dollars to gut and repair the reservoir.