by Carrie Caverly

The coldest recorded temperatures of 2014 inflicted destruction on the Charter School in Crestone.  Subzero temperatures (-8) on December 27 and 28 froze an external hose bib and burst an interior plumbing pipe at the school, flooding Rainbow Hall with approximately 20,000 gallons of water.

Thanks to the community’s quick response and an unwitting construction flaw cum design feature in the concrete floor of Rainbow Hall, the damage was contained to that one room, the main community gathering space at the school.

Ann Bunting, an employee of Crestone’s Water Department and a parent of a Charter School student, noticed approximately 20,000 extra gallons of water usage during a routine water plant check the morning of December 29. Bunting promptly set out to check all the meters around town and locate the potential leakage.   Isolating the leak to the Charter School, she discovered the source of the flooding though, mysteriously, no standing water.   Bunting contacted Kirk Banghart, Moffat Superintendent of Schools.

Banghart immediately called in KW Restoration of Salida and Leadville who responded within 24 hours, assessing the damage, removing the destroyed maple tongue-and-groove wood flooring, and drying the space within four days of initial discovery of the flooding.  By the time school reconvened January 5, Rainbow Hall was stripped down to the concrete slab, dried out and ready for students to resume classes.

So how did 20,000 gallons of water—weighing 83 tons (equivalent to 40 Jeep Wranglers)—magically disappear?  20,000 gallons of water, without a means of escape, would have stood 2-1/2 feet deep in a 1,000 square foot room.  Instead, the flooded water didn’t rise above the ¾” recess in the concrete slab where the wood flooring was installed.

When KW Restoration was pulling up the wood flooring after the flooding they discovered holes in the concrete floor beneath.  During the school’s construction the concrete slab in Rainbow Hall had to be jack hammered to allow for the passage of plumbing pipes that weren’t installed prior to pouring the concrete.  Unwittingly, this minor construction flaw provided drains in the concrete slab, allowing the flooded water to escape through the floor, seep out the gravel underlay that supports the building, and flow into the ground below.  It is believed that no damage was done to the foundation of the building.

The Charter School is awaiting bids for the cost of replacing the destroyed wood flooring with damages estimated to be approximately $70,000-$80,000.  Charter School Director Michael Hayes noted that burst pipes on the inside of the building was not ideal, but couldn’t say what entities, if any, were at fault for the burst pipe, and thankfully, insurance will cover the costs of the repairs.  Hayes noted that numerous schools in Colorado faced similar experiences over the winter break when subzero temperatures challenged plumbing systems to the breaking point.

The solar hot water heating system and radiant in-floor heat was not damaged, and while the leak might have been noticed sooner had school been in session, the temperatures inside the school over winter break were consistent with temperatures maintained while school was in session.

Michael Hayes would like to thank the community for its quick response.  Hayes noted that it was a team effort.  The Town of Crestone’s Water Department was crucial, especially Ann Bunting, who noticed and tracked down the approximately 20,000-gallon leak and notified school officials.  Moffat School’s Superintendent Kirk Banghart was the first person Bunting was able to reach and he was immediately managing the demolition and cleanup work.  Charter School Office Manager Deb Morley was also on-site.  KW Restoration was quick to respond with assessment, demolition and drying efforts.  This team effort from the community ensured that students were able to resume classes as usual after the winter break despite the damages inflicted by subzero temperatures.