The Spokane County public defender’s office was shut down Tuesday because of a backup in a 55-year-old sewer line county maintenance crews said they didn’t know about and hasn’t been maintained.
“There was standing sewer water in the restroom,” county risk manager Steve Bartel said after surveying the damage and calling in a private contractor to help clean up the mess. A damage estimate wasn’t available.
Crews were removing carpet and using pumping equipment to remove water and fans to blow out the stench.
The office was expected to reopen today.
At midday Tuesday, a sign on the defender’s office door said the office was “closed due to sewer backup” and told defendants appearing for court dates to go directly to their courtroom in the nearby courthouse. Senior attorney Jay Ames said more than 80 attorneys and clerical staff who work in the office were sent home shortly after arriving at work because the restrooms weren’t working and there was no running water.
The public defender’s office is located in the Gardner Center Building, at 1033 W. Gardner Ave., just north of the courthouse complex and south of the STA center. The county Elections Office is located in the southern half of the same building, a former supply company warehouse that was converted to county offices several years ago.
Paul Brandt, communications manager for the Elections Office, said about a dozen election workers remained on the job even though their restroom was temporarily out of action. Three portable toilets were set up in the adjoining parking lot.
Bartel told the commissioners that the sewer backup, discovered late Monday, likely was caused by a half-block-long section of county-owned sewer pipe that hadn’t been cleaned since it was built in 1953. That county line ties into the city system at Monroe Street and Gardner Avenue.