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Old 01-03-2013, 09:56 PM   Topic Starter
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Minneapolis: 14 million gallon rupture downtown


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Minneapolis: Most water service restored after 14 million gallon rupture

A water-main break flooded a wide area of downtown Minneapolis on Thursday, affecting water service, closing businesses and snarling traffic throughout the city's core.

About 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3, private contractors working on a development project at Hennepin Avenue and Second Street North struck and ruptured a 36-inch water main that delivers water to a large portion of the city, Minneapolis officials said.

Subcontractor United Sewer & Water Inc., working on a six-story, 286-unit luxury apartment complex going up at the corner, cut into the line with a backhoe, city officials said.

The break affected water service in an area from the Mississippi River south toward Lake of the Isles.

But by 8:30 p.m., service was restored everywhere except to six buildings near the rupture. In all, 14 million gallons of water gushed from the broken main.

City crews worked for hours to isolate the break so that water service could be restored to the vast majority of affected customers. Because the ruptured pipe is a high-pressure "feeder" line, the city had to cut off multiple smaller pipes leading into it, some of them miles out, to create enough of a vacuum to allow the feeder to be shut off.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works said Hennepin Avenue and the Hennepin Avenue Bridge would not be reopened for the Friday morning commute, but might be reopened by the evening.

The city said a work crew will check Friday morning to see whether the water undermined the roadway.

Salt was spread on the roadway and sidewalks to combat the quick-freezing runoff in temperatures in the mid-teens.

The water was deepest one block toward the river, at Hennepin and First Street, appearing waist-high in places. But at the site of the rupture, residents hopped through the ankle-deep water flowing around the largely submerged backhoe on the northwest corner of the intersection.

From there, the runoff flowed to the river and spread one block westward as well. By early evening, most of the water had drained off the affected streets.

Dave Whaley stared forlornly across Hennepin Avenue at his parking ramp, wondering how he would get to his car without getting his feet wet. He said he and his colleagues at the ING Building had been watching the action below from the sixth floor.

"I'm trying to get to another business meeting," Whaley said. "We've been watching this from the sixth floor, hoping it would go down for some time. It hasn't. ... You're not any good at giving piggy-back rides, are you?"

Several bus routes along Hennepin and Washington avenues were detoured to nearby streets, Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland said.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, overlooking
the river and the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, sent all nonessential employees home after the incident, bank spokeswoman Patti Lorenzen said, adding that only "essential" staff will work Friday. The bank's building did not suffer any water intrusion.

The city's Central Library and Mill City Museum also closed early. And the Guthrie Theater canceled its Thursday night performance of "The Servant of Two Masters." Anyone holding tickets to the performance should contact the box office after noon on Friday to exchange their tickets.

Ryan Cos., which is building the $70 million luxury apartment complex and adjacent Whole Foods Market at the site of the break, confirmed that its subcontractor, United Sewer & Water, broke the main while digging near the line.

"We are currently investigating the cause of the accident," Ryan Cos. said in a statement. "We are relieved to report that no one was injured as a result of the accident and the site has been evacuated."

Some residents in the Uptown area were dealing with discolored water.

Luule Abdi, who lives along Third Avenue near Interstate 35W, said her water started to turn a "brown, chocolate color" just after 3 p.m.

Tad Vezner can be reached at 651-228-5461 or follow him on Twitter at @SPnoir. Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173. Follow him at twitter.com/NFerraroPiPress.

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