YOU PAID FOR IT: Davis Islands paving project creates puddles and fuels Zika fears

Tadpoles found in a puddle on a Davis Islands street.
Tadpoles found in a puddle on a Davis Islands street.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There’s a problem with standing water on Davis Islands streets that is so persistent it has become a breeding ground for marine life. These are no piddling puddles — they’re big and deep and so resilient to drainage or evaporation that tadpoles find them perfect for breeding.

Some Tampa residents fear that Zika-infected mosquitoes are also calling the puddles home. Chelsea is a young mom who owns a home on Davis Islands. She insists the City of Tampa has ignored her concerns, which she has expressed in repeated phone calls to City Hall. She asked that we tell her story but not use her last name.

“They’ve done nothing to address the situation, and it’s very concerning for a young family like me that wants to have more children that wants to have another child because as we all know standing water breed mosquitoes,” Chelsea said. “I’m doing everything in my power to keep my property free of standing water and mosquitoes.”

That includes regularly throwing “dunk” tablets into to the puddles on Davis Islands streets, which Chelsea she insists have been around since last Spring. “There’s constantly water in the roadways,” Chelsea said.

Another neighbor, Barbera Barbiera, shared emails with 8 On Your Side indicating she’s been complaining since March without success.

Both homeowners say the puddles started appearing after the city paid contractors to repave two-thirds of the streets on Davis Islands a year or two ago, a project that costs taxpayers more than $1.8 million —a project that You Paid For.

Tampa’s director of transportation and stormwater services, Jean Duncan, tells 8 On Your Side she knew of only one complaint filed in May by a third homeowner, until we started asking questions. “I would say it’s not acceptable to have water for six months,” Duncan said.

The problem doesn’t end with the threat of Zika. Duncan agrees that eventually the standing water will also cause decay in the new paving that You Paid For.

“You’re right,” she said. “If the water sits on the pavement it will start to form potholes. It will erode. So definitely we want to keep that water off the streets as much as we can.”

Duncan personally surveyed the problem during the week after we started raising questions.

She considers the pools of stagnant water at several locations on Davis Islands a problem, but not a sign of grossly defective work because the terrain there is so flat it is sometimes difficult to create the correct grade for streets to drain properly. “I don’t think it’s is at the level that somebody should be fired for letting this happen,” Duncan said.

Duncan insists that any Tampa resident who has a problem with standing water should call the city’s 24/7 stormwater and transportation hotline at (813) 274-3101 and register a complaint.

She plans to ask contractors who are due to return to Davis Islands to repave the remaining one-third of the Islands’ streets. The goal is to address the drainage issue near the homes of Chelsea, Barbiera and others, locations where residents complain about the pesky puddles. “We’ll have to go back with a mini project to remove the water,” Duncan said.

Meanwhile, Chelsea insists she will keep throwing anti-mosquito “dunks” into the stagnant water near her home to allay her health concerns and says she hopes city officials will be more responsive to her Zika fears now than they have been in the past. “They just give me the runaround,” Chelsea said.

A Davis Islands street has pooling water that is home to tadpoles and mosquitoes.
A Davis Islands street has pooling water that is home to tadpoles and mosquitoes.
Chelsea found tadpoles and mosquitoes in water that has pooled on a Davis Islands street. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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