Museum closes after pipes burst

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By Kirsten Laskey

A frozen water pipe burst inside the Los Alamos Historical Society’s archive room and portions of carpeting, walls and the ceiling along with a small percentage of historic archive material was damaged by water over the weekend.  
The burst pipe was discovered at 1 p.m. Sunday. County work crews responded and worked through the rest of the day and continued work on Monday.
Wayne Kohlrust, project manager, said the leak has stopped but damage is still being assessed and is not sure when the repairs will be completed.
He added that the archives and archival staff will be moved to the main level of the community building this week. The archives will remain there until the new county records and archive facility is built.
Heather McClenahan, assistant director of the Los Alamos Historical Museum, said the archives will be closed until further notice. The burst pipe was located in the ceiling at the top of the stairs at the front of the room, she said.  Water poured down, rushing down the stairs, saturating the carpet and the ceiling insulation, McClenahan said.
Although the historical society has “no clue” what the cost of the damage is, she said pamphlets from the early part of Los Alamos’ history to the present were damaged.
The historical society is looking into working with a company in Fort Worth, Texas, which does restoration, to see if the material can be salvaged, she said.
“It could have been so much worse,” McClenahan said.
Monday afternoon, the stairwell and much of the archive room were stripped of carpeting and fans were scattered throughout the room to dry the water-soaked floor.  Workers removed archive material from shelves and condensed furniture and other items into the room’s corners while addressing the water issue. Shop Vacs were used to collect water.  
Kohlrust said the recent cold snap and strong winds played a role in the pipe freezing. He added the attic spaces above the archives are unheated. The re-roofing project at Fuller Lodge did not play a role in the pipe bursting, he said.
The large water leak comes on the heels of county council approving a county records and historic archives facility with the new municipal building project.
Having the leak just reinforces what the historical society has been saying for the past 22 years, McClenhan said, adding that as much as Fuller Lodge is loved, it is not a good setting for the archives.
Water problems existed throughout the community this weekend. Kohlrust said he knows of at least two cases of local residences that experienced burst water pipes.
Residents in Española dealt with bursting pipes and 39 schools in Albuquerque also had frozen pipes.
“It was not unique to Fuller Lodge,” he said.
The Art Center at Fuller Lodge experienced its second leak either Sunday night or early Monday morning.  
Kohlrust said two dead-end heating lines did not have any circulation so they froze. The damage is “not so bad,” he said.
A card rack was damaged but the leak occurred in the best possible location to minimize the damage that occurred, said art center owner Ken Nebel. Two classrooms on the second floor also need to be cleaned up from the leak.
Workers pulled out buckets, mops and Shop Vacs to collect the water.
“It was not as extreme as it could have been,” Nebel said.
The art center was closed Monday but the plan was to open Tuesday morning.