Boil water advisory issued after massive water main break

by Ricky Rouan, originally posted on January 16, 2017

The Columbus Department of Public Utilities has issued a boil-water advisory for customers affected by a 20-inch main waterline break Monday morning on the Northwest Side that also caused flooding to about a dozen homes off Olentangy River Road near Riverside Methodist Hospital.

Customers within the following boundary area are advised to use bottled water or boil all tap water used for cooking and drinking for one minute until further notice: Route 315 to the east, Henderson Road to the north, CSX railroad tracks to the west and to the south along McConnell Drive west of Olentangy River Road and then south to 3595 Olentangy River Road.

Those customers who were left without water altogether by the break had service restored about 10:45 p.m. Monday. However, those customers will also need to boil their water until the city’s Water Division has completed necessary sampling and lab testing of water in the entire affected area to ensure safe consumption. Customers with questions can call customer service at 614-645-8276 or visit

Columbus Public Utilities officials could not give an estimate Monday night on how many customers were affected by the break or how long the boil-water advisory will remain in effect.

Ridgeview Middle School is in the boil-water advisory zone, but students were already scheduled to be off on today for a staff records day, said Scott Varner, spokesman for the Columbus City Schools. Staff members will be advised not to use fountains or tap water.

The water came fast Monday morning after the 20-inch waterline broke just to the north of Mike Hedrick’s residential subdivision off Olentangy River Road. It crept down Olentangy, banking east on Annadale Drive and overwhelming the drain at the end of the street sometime before 7:30 a.m.

Before long, basements began to flood. Water seeped through the floor when Hedrick’s basement couldn’t hold any more.

“It will be hours pumping that thing,” he said, gesturing toward the pump truck humming in his driveway. “It would take me years.”

Utilities officials were trying to determine what caused the breach. The 20-inch line that carries water east from a 24-inch main running north and south on the west side of Olentangy River Road broke. City crews closed the valve before 11 a.m.

The break caused lower water pressure as far away as Clintonville, and nearby medical facilities also had problems. OhioHealth shut down several facilities at its Riverside campus.

OhioHealth Kobacker House, a 24-bed inpatient hospice center, also was without water, said spokesman Marcus Thorpe. There, 250 gallons of water were brought in to operate toilets. Mobile hand-washing stations were being used outside restrooms, and patients and family members were given bottled drinking water.

The American Red Cross was in the neighborhood handing out cleanup kits that included disinfectants, towels and gloves. Anyone who needs assistance or wants to donate can call 614-253-2740.

The city was having trouble pinpointing the location of the break because it had to travel through woods to access the line.

Neighborhood residents said flooding in the area has been a problem for years. Before Route 315 was built, heavy rain didn’t build up on their street — it drained to the river. Now, the highway blocks that path.

The drain at the end of Annadale can’t handle the volume after a downpour, residents said, and the waterline break brought even more water than usual.

“We’re a wet neighborhood already. This is kind of an extreme,” said Kevin Hill, who lives on Annadale. “There was just water spraying in through the walls.”

Hill estimated that he had about 40 inches of water in his basement at its peak Monday, but it had started to subside after noon. He was unsure whether his washing machine and dryer still worked, and he needed to check the condition of his furnace and hot water tank.

Hedricks’ furnace and hot water tank were fully submerged. He lives near the drain on Annadale, the neighborhood’s low point, and the water rose more than 6 feet before seeping into the first floor.

The two sump pumps that normally keep the water at bay weren’t fast enough to hold back the flood. After half an hour of pumping from a truck, the water level dropped to show the first few stairs into Hedricks’ basement.

Only one room avoided flooding and Hedricks, 70, moved fast to maneuver some valuables out of reach. His flat-screen television sat on the kitchen counter, and he moved two pickup trucks before the water got too high.

He wasn’t fast enough to move his 2015 Honda Civic from the garage. The car started this afternoon, water spitting and sputtering out the exhaust pipe, but the floor was still flooded.

“My car is ruined,” he said.

Hedrick has lived in his house for about six years, but it’s been in his family for decades. Once, it flooded up to the countertops of the kitchen, he said.

Pete Rollins, who lives on Olentangy River Road, said the city needs to install more drains in the neighborhood. Most of the neighborhood driveways are covered with water when it rains, he said, and he had about 2 feet of water in his basement Monday.

“I’ve got to assess the other damage,” he said. “There needs to be an improvement.”

A city spokesman said that will be taken into consideration.

“They are in the lowest portion of that area there,” said John Ivanic, an assistant director in the Department of Public Utilities. “That’s something we can look at in the days moving forward here.”


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