Kennebec Water District says brown water is safe for Waterville area residents to drink

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Sediments clouds and colors the water flowing into a tub and what was left after draining the same tub in Waterville on Monday.A water line that broke off North Riverside Drive on Monday stirred up sediment in the district’s piping causing discoloration that is nevertheless safe to drink and use, according to the Kennebec Water District. Photos by Nikolas Hample

WATERVILLE — The brown, discolored water coming out of the faucets and shower heads of some area residents — which is related to a break in a water main located beneath Messalonskee Stream — is safe to drink, an official from the Kennebec Water District said Tuesday morning.

The break in the pipe, which is located near the Lafayette Street and North Riverside Drive intersection, took place Monday morning and prompted reports of low water pressure and discolored water. On Monday, crews engaged isolation valves around the break so that water could be redirected to the affected area through redundancies in the pipeline.

Underwater divers from a Bangor company called Commercial Divers were working to repair the break Tuesday morning.

While the water pressure and service had been restored to customers, the problem with the discolored water is continues.

“Throughout our system, because of the miles of old water mains, there is sediment in many if not most of the pipes. That sediment can be disturbed when flow rates increase due to a broken water main,” Roger Crouse, the general manager of the district, said in an email Monday evening. “This break, because it was in a 16-inch main and it took two hours to shut it down, stirred up a lot of sediment. It also caused our storage tanks to drop lower than normal. For these reasons as well as others we don’t fully understand this disturbance of sediment, and the movement of that sediment throughout the distribution system is far greater than we have experienced before.”

During a phone call Tuesday morning, Crouse said the district has tested the discolored water and found that it is still safe to drink and use to bathe and wash dishes.

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In normal cases, Crouse said, the district would advise customers to run the water in the bath or sink for a few minutes until it runs clear. However, in this case, the amount of sediment is much greater and is taking longer to clear up. Crouse recommends residents go about their day as usual and use the water as they typically would in their dishwashers or showers.

He understands people might not want to drink the discolored water because of the way it looks. Additionally, he said it would probably have an altered taste because of the higher levels of iron and magnesium that accompanies the sediment.

Crouse could not be immediately reached mid-morning Tuesday to say how long the repair will take and how much it will cost. However, he said Monday that repairing a break beneath a body of water generally takes longer and is more expensive to execute.

This story will be updated.

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