Frozen and bursting water pipes are not unusual during the harsh winters on the edge of the Great Plains near the Rocky Mountain foothills. When the mercury falls below zero for days on end–as was the case recently–it is almost an endemic problem. In the case of McKee Thrift Avenue, however, it was more than a minor inconvenience. The water pipe, which froze then burst over the weekend, caused enormous damage, not only to the building, but to the many donated items that were resold at a discount in order to raise funds for the nearby McKee Medical Center in Loveland, Colorado. Not only was the second floor and first level ceiling destroyed and merchandise ruined, the plumbing and all light fixtures will now need to be replaced.
On top of all of this, the flood damage has exposed friable asbestos insulation that will need to be removed. Director of Volunteer Services Karen Burke commented: “The store helps shoppers along with the hospital,” adding that “…people count on trying to buy work clothes and kids’ clothes there…that’s really hard when an organization that supports the community is forced to close.” Cleanup is underway, but it may be several weeks before McKee Thrift Avenue is able to open its doors again. The discovery of asbestos has made the situation that much worse. Colorado state environmental laws are very strict when it comes to asbestos removal and disposal; such projects are invariably expensive. In addition, even those wares and merchandise that escaped flood damage may be contaminated by asbestos and need to be discarded–meaning the store may have to completely replace all of its items.
“We’re going to need lots of donations to make the store full again,” said Burke. In any event, the store will need to hire a certified asbestos abatement contractor in order to deal with the problem. Burke expressed hope that the store’s insurance policy will cover the costs of cleanup and asbestos abatement; however, donations of money as well as used items are being accepted.