Northwood Post Office reopens after sewage backup, order to vacate

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The U.S. Post Office in the Northwood Plaza has reopened after being briefly condemned as a result of ongoing sewage backups and “heavy flooding” in the basement of the building.

Mary Dando with the U.S. Post Office said crews worked through the night Tuesday into Wednesday to clean a sewage backup that forced the Allen County Building Department late Tuesday afternoon to condemn the Northwood Station post office, 6041 Stellhorn Road, near Maplecrest Road. Customers were in the post office early Wednesday sending and retrieving mail, business as usual, with the odor of cleaning products in the air.

“It’s business as usual for our customers and for our employees,” said Greater Indiana District Manager Todd Hawkins. “The water has been removed and the building has been cleaned thoroughly.”

Roger Clark with the Allen County Building Department told NewsChannel 15 six inches of water flooded into the lower level of the women’s locker room. Crews worked into the night getting the water and sewage out then blocked off air vents. Clark said he would not have opened the post office Wednesday if he was not confident the air going upstairs was safe.

However, female employees are having to use portable bathrooms while remediation continues. The area surrounding the the locker room remains blocked off.

Clark said this has happened before and he believed it will happen again until the owner of the building finds a new sewer line that doesn’t used combined runoff from the post office, Casa Grande and Kung Fu Buffet. Clark also said the board of health looked at those grease traps Wednesday and they they “are in bad shape.”

On June 30, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health issued an “Order to Abate or Vacate” to the post office after a sewage backup was found in the basement of the facility. The basement is not open to the public.

The post office was given until July 20 to get the issue fixed and cleaned up.

On Monday, though, inspectors went to the post office and did not find any sewage and everything appeared to be in good working order, the health department said.

Another sewage related complaint was received Tuesday and inspectors returned to find sewage backed up in the basement area, according to the health department.

The Building Department was working with the health department to assess the situation. Around 4:15 p.m., NewsChannel 15 was told by the Allen County Building Department that the building had been condemned. The building department said it sent its Assistant Building Commissioner and an inspector to the site Tuesday afternoon.

“Whenever we receive a complaint, we always assess each situation,” said FW/AC Department of Health Communications Director Megan Tinkel. “Rest assured we have closed off entrances to the basement so no one can access that area. Health risks are currently being assessed.”

Mary Dando, a spokesperson for the USPS, said late Tuesday that the location was expected to open Wednesday. She said in a statement a report about the building condemned because of sewage backup was not accurate and that the building was never condemned but rather ordered to be temporarily closed. Dando said in that statement, “The Allen County Building Department closed the building today after posting a notice stating the building should not be occupied until it receives an all-clear following a final inspection by the Department.”

That came early Wednesday. It remains unclear what caused the sewage backup.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our employees who worked so diligently throughout the night to ensure the building was completely safe for our customers and for the employees who work there,” said Hawkins. “This includes Fort Wayne Postmaster Kathryn Harris and the staff of the Northwood Station, Fort Wayne P&DC Manager Martin Hunnicutt and his employees, especially his Maintenance staff who helped with the cleaning efforts.

“I would especially like to thank Allen County Building Department Assistant Commissioner Roger Clark and Senior Commercial Inspector Curtis Auld for their invaluable help in arranging a crew to work with us in clearing the water from the building, and in the subsequent clean up and sanitization so we were up for business this morning. The safety of our customers and our employees is paramount to the U.S. Postal Service, and because of this tremendous joint effort, we were able to reopen the Northwood Post Office this morning and continue to provide excellent service to our customers.”

NewsChannel 15 saw customers trying to get in when the doors were closed. According to a spokesperson for the post office, customers weren’t affected and mail service was not disrupted by the brief closure. “Not at all. The customers aren’t affected, there’s no damage what so ever. This is at the back of the building and so at the front of the building, the retail unit, there was absolutely no effect at all,” Mary Dando said.

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