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Tampa and Orlando halt their water supply emergencies as COVID hospitalizations drop

City of Tampa
The Tampa Water Department is once again using liquid oxygen to treat its water supply.

The Tampa Water Department switched to chlorine from liquid oxygen, which was being diverted to area hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.

Tampa and Orlando are ending water emergencies now that COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined in the state.

In August, the Tampa Water Department began using chlorine to treat water instead of liquid oxygen. This was due to decreased supply, because liquid oxygen that was used for treating the city’s water was being diverted to hospitals for patients suffering from the virus.

The department said it is once again using liquid oxygen to treat water at the David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility.

"We were fortunate that we were able to quickly switch over to using chlorine as our primary way to disinfect the water," Tampa Water Department director Chuck Weber says."Not every water treatment plant affected by the shortage of liquid oxygen had that flexibility. The resumption of regular liquid oxygen deliveries lets us return our normal operations.”

The department noted that its water met federal and state drinking water standards during the switch to chlorine. Officials remained in close contact with "vendors and regulatory partners to reestablish regular liquid oxygen deliveries as soon as it was feasible."

Around the same time, the Orlando Utilities Commission instructed residents to stop watering lawns or washing cars in an effort to conserve water and liquid oxygen used to treat it. Utility officials in Orlando said Tuesday that residents can resume their normal water use.

"The supply chain remained disrupted until last week, when OUC finally received a full order of LOX (liquid oxygen)," the commission said.

Residential and commercial customers cut back use by as much as 16% during the seven-week emergency period, the commission said. Overall, the daily system average was reduced by just under 10%.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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