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Sewage backup closes Enterprise classrooms

Kathleen Ellyn

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on October 30, 2018 4:24PM

Kathleen Ellyn/ChieftainA worker from One Call Restoration hauls equipment into the K-3 Elementary building as cleanup is completed after a sewage overflow.

Kathleen Ellyn/ChieftainA worker from One Call Restoration hauls equipment into the K-3 Elementary building as cleanup is completed after a sewage overflow.

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A backup in the sewer system at Enterprise K-3 campus Oct. 25 has resulted in damage and contamination to the boys and girls bathrooms, the teacher’s lounge and the hallway in the building.

Prior to the emergency, Supt. Erika Pinkerton had made arrangements for students from the K-3 building to use toilets in the main building and had purchased bottled water for them, anticipating a quick repair to a suspected partial blockage.

“Little did we know,” Pinkerton said.

As the toilets began to overflow on Thursday, arrangements were made to evacuate all students throughout the school by 1:30 p.m.

Enterprise Public Works director Ronnie Neil said the school maintenance department called the city last week to check the main but no problem was found in the city pipes. Custodian Karen Finlayson called again on Wednesday and asked if the city could send a camera down the line, and Neil referred the school to a contractor who had a device equipped with a camera that could inspect the line from the school to the street.

Just after lunch on Thursday, the city was called again as sewage began flowing from the floor drains and toilets in the K-3 building.

This time blockage was found.

“We got a lot of grease and paper towels out of there and it did block the main,” said Neil. “We just jetted the main to clear it.”

The blockage is believed to have originated in the High School and Middle School, and sewage overflowed in the K-3 building because it is the lowest lying building in the complex.

Students impacted were held out on Monday as arrangements were made to accommodate them in the Intermediate School building. All students were back in class by Tuesday, according to Pinkerton.

“Teachers will be greeted students out front as usual Tuesday morning,” she said.

The K-3 students will be accommodated in four rooms that were made available by consolidating art, science and counseling in one room and clearing another room that wasn’t in use prior to the emergency.

The school’s insurance company has been notified and will be working with the city.

The cleanup was handled One Call Restoration of La Grande. Troy Farwell of Farwell Construction of Enterprise is project manager for further work.

“Our primary objective is to get it clean and safe for other workers to come in,” Tanner Krewson, water restoration technician, said.

One Call Restoration completed its portion of the work on Monday. Krewson expected plumbing and possible asbestos abatement work would be required.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 132,000 primary and secondary schools contain asbestos-containing materials. Older buildings can legally have asbestos in the construction provided it is not damaged, Krewson said.

The K-3 building has asbestos under the floor tiling. If the tiling has been damaged and tiles must be replaced, asbestos abatement could be required.


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