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Crack in coal boiler makes school chilly

Brief by Allen Best

Mountain Life – February 2009 – Colorado Central Magazine

The school in Silverton — there is just one for the town of 500 people — got chilly after the coal-fired boiler cracked in early November.

The boiler can still be used, but not sufficiently to warm the building. As a result, electricity-driven space heaters have been used to warm the classrooms. A propane heater keeps the gymnasium at 40 to 50 degrees, reports the Silverton Standard, although water has been turned off there. This makeshift situation will have to make do for this winter, superintendent Kim White says.

Silverton was the last public school in the state to burn coal. With a certain amount of irony, Oak Creek, a town about 20 miles from Steamboat Springs, replaced its coal-fired boiler with a combination of heating devices designed for school buildings this past fall. The irony lies in the fact that Oak Creek can legitimately claim to be a coal-mining town, as one of Colorado’s largest mines, Twenty Mile, is located nearby.

Last summer, a large geoexchange system was installed there, using electricity to help draw heat from pipes buried underground, where the year-round temperature runs 55 to 60 degrees. The school also uses heat from the burning of wood pellets created from lodgepole pine killed by bark beetles.