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, a Kennebec Water District official said Tuesday morning.

The break in the pipe, which is 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, workers engaged isolation valves around the break so that water could be redirected to the affected area through redundancies in the pipeline.

Hard-hat divers from Commercial Divers Inc. in Bangor were working to repair the break Tuesday morning.

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

“Throughout our system, because of the miles of old water mains, there is sediment in many if not most of the pipes,” Roger Crouse, the general manager of the district, said in an email Monday evening. “That sediment can be disturbed when flow rates increase due to a broken water main. 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.”

Crouse said he did not know exactly how many customers have been affected by the water discoloration.

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

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 probably would have an altered taste because of the higher levels of iron and magnesium that accompanies the sediment.

Crouse said he did not know how long the repair might take but speculated the materials, manpower and equipment necessary for the work could cost up to $20,000.

The pipe in question experienced a break last November, Crouse said. The repaired pipe came apart when it shifted in the stream, taking on more pressure than it could handle.

In order to repair the break, the crew has to replace the damaged pipe with new pipe and connect it with the existing water main. Crouse said the district will use a crane to place concrete blocks in the stream to secure the pipe.

The completion of the project depends upon the availability of a crane. Crouse said it is a busy season for renting cranes, and it could take a week or two to acquire one.

Once the pipe is repaired, Crouse said, the district will work with an engineer to determine whether to replace the entire pipe in Messalonskee Stream, as it’s vulnerable to breaks.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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