PORTSMOUTH — A water pipe to a heating element in City Hall burst overnight, leading to the discovery of flooding from the top floor of the public building, all the way down to the basement, said Public Works Director Peter Rice, on scene Sunday morning.
Later in the afternoon, Rice was at City Hall with a contracted crew for remediation assessment. He said the location of the leak will not prevent them from opening for business on Monday.
"We are working to determine the extent of the damage," said Rice. "Water sometimes gets into a wall and that can cause further problems. We will probably need to pull down a few walls to see what is inside. We are using extractors to dry the carpeting. To add insult to injury, some of the water has gotten to the police station floor."
Rice said no equipment or vital city records received any damage. Because the situation is still in the assessing phase, Rice said they have no cost estimates for the needed repairs.
Ward 2 Registrar Candace Thayer said she went into City Hall Sunday morning to work when she mistook the sound of flowing water for people inside the building. When she went into the second-floor registrars office, she said, she saw the office flooded and reported it to police.
In the registrars office, water leaked through the suspended ceiling, covered conference tables, electronics and documents. In the hallway outside the office, ceiling tiles were soaked above and the carpet was wet below. Thayer and firefighters removed items out of the office and into the hallway while firefighters covered tables and walls with plastic tarps. Thayer also carefully removed displayed student artwork from a hallway wall and moved it to a drier area.
On the third floor above, ceiling tiles were soaked and firefighters pushed standing water to a stairwell to move it out. Tarps were also hung to minimize damage there.
Fire Capt. Bill McQuillen said they received the call about a water problem at City Hall at 10:41 a.m. He said when they arrived they discovered the leak on the fourth floor and determined that water had run down to all the floors below.
"The water had clearly been leaking for a while," said McQuillen. "The leak was from a line into a heater along the exterior wall. We shut off the water to stop the leak and then started clearing the water, and using tarps to protect anything valuable like computers and files."
Rice said the pipe likely burst on the fourth floor overnight. He said late Sunday morning that city workers were in the process of containing the water to ensure there wasn't further damage.
Multiple fire trucks and two ambulances responded to the call at about 11 a.m. Sunday.
The City Council in December approved $1.2 million for improvements to the City Hall building which was formerly Portsmouth Hospital.
Reporter Karen Dandurant contributed to this report.