N.H. State Building Damaged by Frozen, Bursting Pipes

Jan. 17--CONCORD -- The state Department of Health and Human Services building on Hazen Drive will be closed indefinitely after the building's pipes froze and burst, causing massive damage, Concord Fire Battalion Chief Ken Folsom said.

"The entire building was frozen. It was down to 26 degrees in some places," Folsom said.

Folsom said officials believe the costs to repair the building will exceed $1 million.

"It's going to be a big number," he said. "It's going to take a lot to repair (the pipes) because the building is finished."

Folsom said the building's heating systems apparently failed over the weekend. Temperatures were so cold that a fish tank on the building's third floor froze solid.

"It wasn't just a skim of ice on the top, but frozen frozen," Folsom said of the fish tank.

Folsom said firefighters were able to go through the building's hazardous materials storage section to ensure that any chemicals, viruses and gases were secured properly and were not a danger to the surrounding area.

He said every one of the building's "domestic" water lines, including for bathrooms, sinks and the building's sprinkler system, were frozen and that officials may discover more problems when the heating system is repaired.

"When they put the heat back on, the ice is going to melt. That water's got to go somewhere," he said.

Tarps and other plastic materials have been placed on much of the department's sensitive computer hardware and other materials, he said.

Employees have been notified that the building is closed. The department posted on its website that the offices "are closed to employees and the public to allow for repairs to burst pipes. These offices house both Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Environmental Services. Please check back to this page frequently as we will be posting updates as they become available."

DHHS officials could not be reached Sunday night for comment.

Folsom said he couldn't guess as to when the building would reopen.