Punctured water line near Chamber of Commerce building temporarily displaces staff

Columbus firefighters are combating flooding and possible electrical damage at the old train depot on Sixth Avenue, now the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, after a punctured water line caused the basement to flood with six feet of water.

Chamber staff were evacuated at about 7:30 a.m. after employees noticed smoke in the building. By 8:30 a.m., emergency workers were still waiting to enter the building.

The flooding originated from a water line busted by construction on a city sewer and drainage project taking place on Sixth Avenue. Part of the work being done by Layne construction company includes replacing water lines. The Layne foreman on the site said he did not know anything about the problem inside the chamber building.

Layne Project Manager Andy Hedrick declined comment on the incident Wednesday afternoon.

Jones said firefighters are working to drain water from the basement of the historic 1902 building before assessing electrical damage.

"We won't know if there's any electrical damage until we get down there, but we know it set off a couple of the breakers," Columbus Battalion Chief Donnie Jones said.

Power to the building is shut off and access barred, leaving officials to discuss where best to temporarily move the Chamber's 24-person staff. The loss of power has shut of the Chamber's server, leaving staff members with limited communication.

Chamber President Mike Gaymon said although the incident was unfortunate, it gave Chamber staff an opportunity to practice emergency strategies.

"This is a good exercise, unfortunately," he said. "We do have a plan for emergencies. So this is a good opportunity for 'This is what our plan said we would do, and off site stuff and all that. Let's see how well it's going to work.'"

Gaymon said 600 square feet room contains mostly electrical work and some documents on higher shelving, due to previous problems with minor flooding. He is unsure when the Chamber will receive an estimate on damages.

On Dec. 14, construction workers struck a natural gas line on Sixth Avenue during work on the same sewer project. The line was repaired within an hour, according to a previous Ledger-Enquirer report.