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N4T Investigators: Flooding Fiasco

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TUCSON - "Look at this, that's a great shot."

That's the voice of Greg Briggs, who claims the City ignored his voice. He was talking while a car went through a section of a flooded road, causing a large splash.

Briggs lives on the far east side and called us about flooding on Speedway Boulevard, just east of Houghton Road.

Briggs says it's been flooding there every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for several months, even when it hasn't rained. The water was set to flow at that time by an automatic timer.

“It wasn't a small amount of water,” Briggs told News 4 Tucson. “It was tens of thousands of gallons and it would flood the whole roadway.”

China Vogel lives a couple of hundred feet away off Speedway Boulevard. The flooded section of the road is next to her driveway.

“Water would leak through here about down to my driveway and it would get pretty deep to where people had to drive in the median which is really dangerous," Vogel said. "They're swerving at oncoming cars to get around it."

Briggs said, “In the desert, this is a crime to wastewater."

Briggs said he called Tucson Water and several other city departments at least once a month over the past six months.

"The city said they'll send a guy out to look and we will get back to you," said Briggs. "And no one has ever called me back, except channel 4.”

News 4 Tucson learned the flooding was due to a broken irrigation tube, split open by passing cars even though it's in the dirt shoulder of the road.

The tubing is part of the City Transportation Department's irrigation system.

It was connected to a line running several hundred feet underground, bringing reclaimed water to landscaping on medians and roadsides.

News 4 Tucson asked Tucson Water Department spokesperson Fernando Molina: “What's your response to this homeowner saying he got the runaround?”

Molina said: “I checked with the Tucson Water Inspectors and they had never been notified about this particular issue here.”

News 4 Tucson followed-up: “So you’re saying until we told you about this, the water department was unaware?”

“Correct,” Molina said.

Regardless of what happened previously, to Molina’s credit, within 24 hours of our call to him, the problem was resolved.

Briggs insists he did call the water department but Molina says if he did, someone would have been out there quickly.

“Number one, if residents do see these kinds of leaks we need to know immediately so that we can get out here immediately," Molina said. "And number two, I think we're going to be sitting down with the transportation department and try and figure out what a longer-term solution is here.”

Nearby resident Vogel added, “It's just really dangerous so we're happy to get it fixed.”

Molina says if you see water being wasted, whether it's an irrigation system along a road or on private property, you can send an email via the Tucson Water website: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/water .

Or you can send one to waterleaks@tucsonaz.gov or call the water waste office at 520-791-2514.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the City Transportation Department says it's looking into putting reflective posts next to irrigation equipment, so people stop driving on it.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520- 955-4444.

Matthew Schwartz

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