Washington State Archives damaged by water leak

The main State Archives operation is closed today as archivists and mopup experts respond to water damage that occurred overnight when a new water-supply hose coupling failed.

State Archivist Steve Excell said much of the damage was confined to the main entry floor of the Archives, which are housed across the street from Capitol. The main research room and offices were flooded with several inches of standing water, discovered when the first staffer arrived at 7 a.m.

Some water made its way through the floor to the next floor below, dripping water on several hundred volumes of records from Southwest Washington, including marriage records. Excell said there were about three dozen boxes of microfilm was affected in the vault, but the microfilm was not damaged.  Property photos and county journal leather-bound volumes were damp, but not sodden, he said.

Terry Badger, deputy archivist, said mop-up response was immediate, with 15 or 20 people from the landlord (the state Department of Enterprise Services) and from the Olympia Fire Department.  Standing water was shop-vacuumed.  A private emergency-response contractor, ServPro, helped the Archives and Records Center staff remove the damaged documents and began air-drying them. Tarps were placed over the remaining documents in the area. Fans and dehumidifiers will be running through the weekend.

Badger said they are confident that no records will be ruined.

“Basically, the damage to archival records was minimal,” he said. “Water is the worst enemy for Archives and paper records.

“In a way, we were lucky. If the water had run all weekend, no telling how much damage it would have done.”

All staff remained on duty, helping with cleanup, dealing with their regular jobs and making plans for next week. Badger said wet carpets and Sheetrock will have to be removed, since mildew also is an enemy of Archives.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman was kept abreast of the flooding.

“I’m glad the damage was contained,” she said. “I want to thank the staff, the responders from the fire department and DES and everyone who swung into action.”

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