Water damage has temporarily closed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic on West Commercial Street in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Portland VA clinic on West Commercial Street is expected to be closed for at least the rest of the week because of water damage from a boiler system failure.

The clinic, which opened a year ago in a new $64 million facility, provides outpatient services to about 8,700 people.

The damage occurred over a week ago, on Feb. 26, and the clinic has been closed since then, said Adelle Belisle, medical director at the clinic. She said they are hoping to reopen by early next week.

“We had a boiler failure or two boiler failures which caused cold air to go into the system and caused freezing within the system,” Belisle said. “There were then major water leaks within the VA.”

Belisle said there is water damage to the ceiling and floors, as well as to some equipment, though the equipment damage was “not as bad as we would have expected from the flooding.”

The shutdown at the VA clinic affected about 800 patients last week, and Belisle said all were given options for rescheduling, accessing virtual care, or visiting other VA locations in Augusta or Lewiston.


“Our biggest issue is contacting patients and everyone we contact we’ve offered other options,” Belisle said. “Thankfully, with COVID, we know how to do virtual appointments at this point and it’s a really good option when something like this happens.”

Stephen Rendall Sr., a Vietnam War veteran and patient at the clinic, said the VA “immediately offered me all my services by phone or video or at Togus, so there’s absolutely no lack of response by the VA.”

But Rendall said he is concerned about what led to the shutdown.

“It’s a brand new building that’s not even two years old. … Why did the building freeze up and the pipes burst? It seems to me this is a systemic failure,” Rendall said.

Asked about the fact that the building is brand new and whether construction issues could have caused the problem, Belisle said it’s being looked into.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a structural issue. … It was cold weather, the boiler systems went down and cold air got forced through. So unfortunately it happened, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a structural issue at this point,” Belisle said.

She said more information, including an estimated cost of repairs, would have to come from the building owner, which leases the space to the VA. A spokesperson for the VA said the costs are expected to be covered by the owner’s insurance.

The website for J.B. Brown & Sons, a commercial property management and development company, lists 141 West Commercial St. as one of its properties. Voicemail and email messages left with the company late Monday night were not returned.

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