Work on a water main in Clinton stirred up sediment in the pipes leaving many in Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook and Madison without palatable water for more than 24 hours.
Connecticut Water sent messages to customers asking that they avoid dishwashing, clothes washing and other high-volume activities.
Residents posted photos of thick, brown water running from their taps.
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Dan Meaney, director of corporate and external communications for Connecticut Water, said that around 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the company was filling a new section of water main when they realized the water flow was higher than they’d anticipated.
“When you move more water through a water main, it can stir up sediment or things that are either coating the pipe or in the bottom of the pipe,” Meaney said. “And in this case, what we’re seeing is manganese.”
According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the mineral, manganese, occurs naturally in rock, soil, ground water, surface water and food. At low concentrations, it may cause noticeable color, odor or taste in water, but higher concentrations could be cause for health concerns.
He said the high water flow that sparked the problem was an uncommon occurrence, but manganese in Clinton water is not – the Clinton water system is old, and the mains are coated with the mineral.
Meaney said that, ironically, the work on Wednesday was related to a cleaning and lining project to put a coating on the water main to get rid of manganese.
“It’s a little bit ironic that that is the cause of the discolored water when you’re actually working on a section of water main on Fairy Dell Road to help alleviate those concerns going forward,” Meaney said.
He said Connecticut Water employees moved quickly to isolate the water system and have been continuously flushing it out for the past 24 hours.
Meaney said homes north of Route 1 are in “good shape,” but the company is still working to flush out the brown water for all other customers.