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Water Main Break Floods Downtown St. Paul

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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MAP: Drinking Water Areas Affected

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — An underground water line ruptured early Saturday in downtown St. Paul, flooding several city blocks, causing a widespread drop in water pressure and prompting city officials to warn customers to use water only after boiling for three minutes.

Rick Larkin, the city’s director of emergency management, said there was “significant street damage” after the 20-inch main broke about 12:30 a.m., sending thousands of gallons of water coursing through eight to 10 square blocks. The cause of the rupture wasn’t immediately clear, Larkin said.

The area where the leak occurred is full of apartment and office buildings. Larkin said there didn’t appear to be much structural damage beyond the streets themselves.

“It’s a hilly area of the city, so it all just ran down the hill,” he said.

With water pressure dropping for much of the area overnight, some hospitals switched temporarily to reserve water supplies.

Officials closed several downtown streets after the break, but Larkin said crews were working to reopen many of them before dawn. Part of the work involved clearing away the ice from the ruptured line that had made it to street level.

“Once the street is cleaned up and the ice dealt with, it’ll shrink back to a one-block area,” Larkin said. “… It really becomes a construction project.”

A few hours later, officials isolated the break and closed the valves to turn off that portion of the water supply. Full water pressure was restored to most of the grid, but Larkin said public works crews will have to dig up a large section of road to repair the broken part of the line.

Because of contamination concerns, city officials warned residents against drinking tap water pending lab tests. David Wagner oversees the underground piping system for the St. Paul Regional Water Services. He says tests have confirmed no chemical contamination, so tap water is fit for drinking. But because tests for bacteria take 18 hours, residents should boil their water for three minutes before drinking as a precaution.

The flooding comes a month after a break in a 3-foot water main in downtown Minneapolis spilled millions of gallons of water and flooded streets. The rupture occurred after a contractor struck the pipe with a backhoe.

For more, visit the St. Paul website.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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