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Forum News Service, Published November 16 2013

Grand Forks' Columbia Mall cleans up after flooding

A portion of Grand Forks’ Columbia Mall was flooded Friday evening when a water main broke somewhere in the quadrant between JC Penney’s and Sears, mall management said.

As of this afternoon, many stores have cleaned up and reopened, but some remained closed, said General Manager Bill Reid. The mall itself remained open throughout the incident, he said.

Cleanup is just the start, though, because workers will now have to figure out where the break was exactly and excavate, he said.

The flooding started about 4 p.m. Friday when The Gap’s general manager, Danielle Nelson, was on duty.

“It was really weird,” she said. The water just seeped up from the floor and the back wall, she said. Her staff was able to save the merchandise, losing only some marketing material, she said.

The cleanup lasted until early this morning, she said.

Brittany Hart, a shopper from East Grand Forks, was there when the flooding happened and said some stores in the quadrant were not affected. The people in them were very surprised to see water in the hallway, she said.

The water main that broke is in the mall’s property and does not belong to the city.

Back in 1978 when the mall was built, many water pipes were made with cast iron not PVC plastic like they are now, according to Reid. Unfortunately, cast iron has a tendency to react with acidic soil, which is to say it corrodes.

Reid said he doesn’t yet have an estimate of how long it will take to fix the problem or even the extent of the damage.

At The Gap, Nelson said the wooden floors sat underwater for quite a while. The store is still drying them out and have not been able to assess damage, she said.