AKRON, OHIO — Declan Smith jokes that he always thought Extrusion Services Inc. was on high ground, up a steep hill from the Cuyahoga River in Akron. Then on April 11, a water main broke under the street — right in front of the company.
An estimated 1 million gallons of water poured out, creating a giant hole more than 35 feet wide. The powerful rush of water poured down North Street, eroding ground under a corner of ESI's main manufacturing building, exposing part of the foundation. It took the city about three hours to shut the water off, Smith said.
Production at Extrusion Services resumed today, although the company was not allowed to use its paint booth, located in the corner that partially washed away. Akron city crews pumped concrete under the foundation, and Smith said he expects they will be able to use the paint booth again in a few days, after the concrete sets.
The rest of the manufacturing building is back in use, although it will take a few days to get back into full production, he said.
"That's really job one, to make sure we keep production and minimize any impact to scheduling," said Scott Gardner, business development manager.
Gardner said ESI has been busy, and company officials have notified some customers about the flood.
ESI normally works two shifts, from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. So Smith, the president and CEO, said he was the only person in the building when the water main ruptured shortly after 6 p.m. on April 11. His office is in a building that is separate from the main factory.
As he left to go home, Smith said he had no idea what was going on just outside his office. Just another Thursday.
"At 6:30 I went to leave, locked the door, turned around — it looked like a river," Smith said.
The city turned off all utilities to the area. The water flowed down the street, flooding a few businesses and pouring through a residential neighborhood. People were evacuated.
Smith finally got home a few hours later. Then at 10 p.m., the Akron Fire Department called to say part of the foundation was washing away and officials were afraid the building might collapse, he recalled.
The next day, ESI employees moved some equipment out of the main factory into the building next door.
ESI employs about 45 people making downstream extrusion equipment for plastics and rubber extrusion, such as pullers, vacuum sizing tanks, cutters and saws.
The newly poured concrete should shore up the affected part of the building, and Smith said the city of Akron has very helpful. "I've got nothing but good things to say about the city," he said.