Basement flood closes Princeton market

Wild Oats expected to reopen Wednesday, at the earliest

By: Hilary Parker
   A water main burst Friday morning in the basement of Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, flooding the store’s basement with oil- and sewage-contaminated water, according to Princeton Borough Fire Official William Drake.
   The store did not open Friday because of the incident and will remain closed at least through today, according to a store representative.
   Workers from the American Water Co. were changing a water meter on a water main in the basement when the pipe broke apart farther down the line in the basement, Mr. Drake said. No one was injured at the time the pipe burst or in the subsequent flood, he said.
   The workers immediately contacted the water company to shut off the water, he said, which by that point had filled the basement nearly to the ceiling.
   The Princeton Fire Department responded to an alarm call around 6:30 a.m. Friday, said Chief Pat McAvenia. The borough Department of Fire Safety and Housing Inspection became involved due to the fact that machine oils contained in refrigeration equipment in the basement and sewage from a grease interceptor contaminated the floodwater after the break, Mr. Drake said.
   "We were enforcing the fire code because the water contained some sewage and was contaminated with some kind of machine oil," he said. "We had to notify the state Department of Environmental Protection" to ensure proper cleanup without risk of further contamination.
   Officials from the DEP arrived about noon Friday, according to Mr. Drake, and Wild Oats subsequently contracted with a private company to remove the water and clean up the hydrocarbon spills in the basement.
   The water was safely removed by Friday evening, according to Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele. Due to the loss of refrigeration, she said, a large majority of the store’s products was lost, as roughly 65 percent of its stock is perishable.
   Contractors are still at work to replace electrical breakers and refrigeration equipment, and the store will not re-open until at least Wednesday, Ms. Tuitele said. Even if the store does open mid-week, it is not likely to contain "a full complement of products, as we need to reorder and restock virtually the entire store," she said.
   There is no risk to Wild Oats customers or employees, she said, as the flooding was contained beneath the store and water did not enter any storage rooms or come near the sales floor. Additionally, she noted, environmental professionals removed the water and remediated any affected areas immediately.