5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Investigates: Records Show Rising Tab, Tensions After Water Main Break

Updated: 03/18/2013 10:42 AM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert

At first, it sounded so benign.

As tens of thousands of gallons of water first spewed from a ruptured 36" water main on Minneapolis' main downtown traffic artery shortly before a weekday rush hour, a city of Minneapolis police dispatcher sent a lone police squad car to the scene with a seemingly bland request for traffic control.

"Assist water department," the male dispatcher broadcast over the radio.

"They're trying to block traffic to make a repair."

That "repair" would be prove to be impossible on that Thursday afternoon, as 14 million gallons of water would ultimately flood streets, damage vehicles, swamp parking lots and garages, knock out water service, and cost the city and residents hundreds of thousands of dollars in response, repair, and damages.

The city's tab alone is $325,000 so far and Minneapolis is preparing to square off with one of Minnesota's biggest construction companies, Ryan Companies, whose own contractors are being blamed by the city for the massive breach on a frigid early January day, to recoup the city's expenses.

A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS review of hundreds upon hundreds of emails and records of interactions between city leaders, workers, crews, residents, property managers, and attorneys in the five days after the Jan. 3, 2013 water main break reveal for the first time how the city responded and the tensions that quickly grew about what was safe, who was to blame, and who should pay.

Watch our investigation above to see the emails and hear never-before-released audio of city dispatchers.