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News / Clark County News

Broken water main floods Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries Operations Center

Full restoration will likely take several months

By Jack Heffernan, Columbian county government and small cities reporter, and
Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: October 5, 2020, 6:53pm
7 Photos
Trevor Burns of D&amp;H Carpet Cleaning helps remove remaining water in the basement carpet and subfloor at Fort Vancouver Regional Library Operations Center on Monday afternoon. A ruptured water main flooded part of the facility over the weekend.
Trevor Burns of D&H Carpet Cleaning helps remove remaining water in the basement carpet and subfloor at Fort Vancouver Regional Library Operations Center on Monday afternoon. A ruptured water main flooded part of the facility over the weekend. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Several services will be delayed over the next few days, and operations will likely be temporarily relocated, following significant flooding Saturday night at the Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries Operations Center.

Contractors caused the flooding when they struck an 18-inch cast iron water main while working at the site of the new Vancouver Innovation, Technology and Arts Elementary School at 1007 E. Mill Plain Blvd., according to the Vancouver Public Works Department.

The break quickly grew and caused a burst of 1.4 million gallons of water — enough to overflow two Olympic-sized swimming pools — causing several feet of flooding at the nearby library headquarters.

As of Monday afternoon, the standing water had mostly been drained, but the carpet is still wet and puddles of water remain, library spokesman Tak Kendrick said. Removing all of the water from the building will likely require three to four weeks of work, and full restoration of the building will likely take several months.

Courtesy of Katie Whitmer Video

“There’s a lot to be done,” Kendrick said.

Library officials are looking at options to temporarily move services and operations to some of the 15 other library locations and have staff work from home, Kendrick said.

Several public areas of the building were affected, Kendrick said. Vehicles, including courier vans and trucks that transfer material between library locations, were ruined.

“As a result, we expect there might be a day or two delay this week for pickup of some materials at branches, though patrons who have gotten a pickup notice are not affected,” Kendrick said.

Flooding will also impact the libraries’ ability to mail books, Kendrick said. While the equipment appears to be intact, staff will need to figure out a new location to administer those services, and it is unknown when that will happen.

Flooding will also limit the center’s ability to take in new materials, Kendrick said. “Longer term, this could affect our ability to serve new releases to patrons, though again restoring this service is a priority for us.”

Electronic services, such as e-books and audiobooks, are unaffected. IT offices are located in the flooded area, but all servers are off site, Kendrick said. Kendrick said that primary services should return to full capacity within a week or two.

On Saturday night, the contractor — Nutter Corp. — excavated around the water main to run other utilities underneath, according to the city. Workers were compacting the trench following utility installation when they struck the top of the water main.

A small leak rapidly expanded to 2 feet in length, according to the city. Public Works officials arrived at the scene and devised plans with the contractor to temporarily replace the pipe, but then the break suddenly expanded to 10 feet.

Within 30 minutes, water gushing from the pipe overwhelmed the operations center parking lot and basement. In addition to IT and collection operations, the basement also houses storage and mail room functions. Water also affected the building’s electrical and HVAC systems.

City crews isolated the area where the break occurred and temporarily shut off water. City and contractor crews repaired the line after the water burst slowed, and repairs were completed shortly before midnight.

The water main is connected to the city’s water station at Fort Vancouver Way and Fourth Plain Boulevard, which provides about 25 percent of the city’s drinking water — as much as 2 billion gallons per year, according to the city. The water main had been scheduled to be removed and relocated to a nearby site within the next two weeks as part of the development project.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter