An early afternoon water main break on Cecil A. Malone Drive was responsible for brown water spreading through Ithaca’s west end, southwest, and downtown water supply on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Department of Public Works.
Ithaca DPW officials said because the affected water line “being a 12-inch main, the velocity of the water pressure flowing down the main has caused a scouring effect inside the pipes and has basically stripped the water main walls.” City officials blamed rusty water earlier this summer on high-velocity water flow scouring minerals from the walls of the water main pipes.
“This in turn put rust in the water, and, mixed with the remaining factors from before, we get water color in range from tea to tar,” said Water & Sewer Division officials from Ithaca’s Department of Public Works.
High mineral levels related to drought conditions, complicated by Ithaca’s new water treatment system needing to be calibrated, meant weeks of discolored water in town.
After the water main break at about 1:30pm, near the Super 8 Motel next to the Wegmans supermarket, city officials were able to isolate the broken main about an hour later and then repair the water main. Officials flushed the affected water lines through nearby fire hydrants so as to clear rusty water from the lines.
City officials said this afternoon that residents in affected areas should wait to turn on their water taps until hydrants in their neighborhoods are running clear, and then run their own water until it’s clear before turning on the hot water or using washing machines.
Recent rain and water conservation efforts have helped keep Ithaca’s water supply in manageable levels.