401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

Water sets county employees adrift

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Photo by Pat Sunderland The employee breakroom in the county courthouse meets the needs of the health department's family planning unit, with a private bathroom, a sink for washing up, and a small room equipped for exams. Nurse manager Pat Sullivan (pictu

Employees of the Delta County Health Department are gradually moving back into their offices at 255 W. 6th Street in Delta after they were displaced by a torrent of water unleashed by a broken water heater.

Sometime during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, the hot water tank split and water gushed out. "The water just kept pouring and pouring," said Karen O'Brien, health department director.

While there are drains in the utility closet that housed the hot water heater, and in nearby bathrooms, they simply couldn't keep up with the volume of water. O'Brien said city records show that the health department went through 82,000 gallons of water that weekend -- compared to 3,000 gallons over a normal four-day period.

"There was literally water coming out the door when employees arrived at work Monday morning," O'Brien said. Courthouse maintenance also saw flames coming out of the tank's heating unit, but fortunately the flames did not spread.

Employees grabbed mops, and frantically snatched up files and supplies sitting on the wet floor. It was clear shop vacs would not be enough to remove all the water, so ServPro was contacted. The disaster restoration placed 72 dehumidifiers/fans throughout the building to dry out floors and insulation. The noise was incredible, O'Brien said.

A plan was immediately put into place to continue providing services. The two receptionists squeezed into a break room that had remained dry while department employees gathered up their equipment and moved into makeshift work spaces in the main courthouse. Even the county commissioners offered to give up their offices at one point.

"Everybody in the courthouse was so accommodating and supportive," O'Brien said.

"Once we found space, everybody got set up quickly. This disaster did not impact clients from day one."

The main entrance was not usable, but a sign directed them to a door on the west, where the receptionists could direct clients to the appropriate office.

Renovation has included replacement of flooring and removal of the lower foot or two of drywall, so the wet insulation could be replaced. Stryker & Company of Montrose is wrapping up the interior remodel, and desks, file cabinets, exam tables and storage cabinets are gradually being moved back into place. Within the next week, O'Brien said she expects all employees to again be under one roof.

"It's definitely been crazy," she said.

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