A municipal water main break Monday night in an industrial area of north Minneapolis disrupted water flow Tuesday morning and prompted the city to issue an ongoing water boil advisory to affected residents and businesses.

The "significant water main break" occurred about 5:30 p.m. Monday in the 2900 block of 2nd Street N. City crews are still draining water from the cracked main and will begin repairing it soon, said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the city's public works director.

"The water main that broke yesterday is a 36-inch cast iron pipe. That main has been serving the city since 1888," Kelliher said. "That can give way after all these years in service."

Water pressure fluctuations can cause minor weak spots in a pipe to break, she said, though the exact cause of this breakage isn't known. Cold weather can also contribute to the breaks.

Affected residents and businesses are on the east side of Interstate 94, she said, including 80 single-family or duplex residences and Lowry Towers, a public housing building.

Some customers on the 2nd Street North business corridor, from Dowling Avenue to 24th Avenue, were still without water Tuesday afternoon, city officials said.

The city said the boil-water advisory covers N. 3rd Street from Lowry Avenue south to 26th Avenue, and N. 4th Street from 29th Avenue south to 26th Avenue.

Customers in the affected area are asked to boil water for three minutes before using it for cooking or drinking. The advisory will remain in effect until the city determines the water is safe to drink without boiling it first.

Repairs underway

Crews have been able to drain water from the area of the break and will soon start repairs. The work will be completed "in a fairly short order," Kelliher said, though it will take at least another day. The road and sidewalk near the break will be fixed temporarily now and more permanently in the spring.

"When a break like this happens, there is sediment that is in those pipes … and the action of the break … releases that, so some people in the city may be experiencing brown water, rust-colored water," Kelliher said.

Those residents should let the water run in the lowest level of their home until it is clear, Kelliher said.

Regardless of whether it is brown or clear, residents should boil drinking water to be safe, since it's possible groundwater contaminated with bacteria entered the water supply through defects in the pipes, said Annika Bankston, the city's director of water treatment and distribution services.

No contamination has been found yet, Bankston said, and testing for bacteria in the water is ongoing.

"We hope to have those results in about 24 hours … and at that point we will be able to hopefully issue the all-clear for that boil-water advisory," Bankston said.

The city doesn't yet have a cost estimate for the repairs, Bankston said.

Bottled water distribution

The city used social media to inform residents and businesses about the break. Staff also knocked on doors and distributed flyers.

Along with issuing the boil-water advisory, the city is handing out bottled water to affected residents at Farview Park, 621 N. 29th Av.

There were few people at the pickup site Tuesday afternoon and plenty of bottled water. Suzanne Jones stopped in and got two cases for herself and her roommate. Both have had illnesses that can affect the immune system and Jones was feeling "leery" about water from the tap, she said.

"I don't have enough money to buy water for very long," she said. "It was a city water [main] break. They need to do something for the people who are affected."

At some addresses along N. 3rd and 4th streets, city notices were still taped to the doors of apartments and houses late Tuesday morning.

Hodan Roble, who lives in an apartment in the area, said she moved in two days ago. She said she wasn't worried about the break and the water seemed fine Monday night and Tuesday. She boiled water for cooking, but would have done that anyway, she said.

Resident Nancy Williams said she communicated with her neighbors Monday night about the water main break and received the city's notice, too. She and her wife live on separate floors of the home, she said.

She said communication from the city about the problem had been good so far.

"We still had water but it was very, very slow — no water pressure," Williams said about the water Monday night, adding that she was able to flush the toilet.

She said she doesn't drink water from the tap but buys it in jugs instead, so she hasn't had to boil any.

"That's [for] my coffee in the morning," she said. "That's the most important."