Pool on sick leave as problems repaired

Communications Staff — September 25, 2003

If there was a disabled list for swimming pools, the main pool of Southern Seminary’s Health and Recreation Center would be on it.

Since mid-July, numerous mechanical problems have afflicted the 13-year-old, Olympic-size pool, including a bad circulation pump, brown water and deteriorated liner, among others.

The good news is that surgery will be soon, said David Fletcher, director of Southern’s Health and Recreation Center. The more disappointing news is that the pool will probably be out of commission until early spring.

“I know it’s inconvenient to a lot of people,” Fletcher said. “… It’s a pretty massive system back there. There’s a lot of things people take for granted.”

The pool trouble began earlier this summer.

The circulation pump had started to rumble like a jet airplane. And for those unfamiliar with the mechanisms of a 186,000 gallon pool — that’s not a good thing.

The pump — which had moved 800 gallons of water a minute 24 hours a day over 13 years — had to be shut down due to faulty ball bearings.

This created more problems. While the pump was being fixed, the water did not circulate through the pipes. So, when the pump started pumping again, copper from the pipes combined with the chlorine to produce the brown, coffee-like color currently seen in the pool.

“Chemically you can swim in it,” Fletcher said. “It’s fine. There’s no bacteria. It’s perfect, normal swimming water.”

But since no one wants to swim in brown water, Fletcher said that the copper still needed to be filtered out. To remove the copper, Fletcher employed numerous means to try to bind the copper together to make it large enough for the sand filters to pick up. Nothing worked.

The only cost-effective option left was to drain the pool, Fletcher said. Draining the pool, however, does have additional advantages, he added. It presents opportunities to fix the pool’s other age-related problems — some of which were actually exposed by pump breakdown.

“The circulation pump going down in one sense was a blessing in disguise because it revealed some other underlying problems that we didn’t know were there,” Fletcher said.

These other repairs include: repairing some valves and compressors, repainting the lap lanes, mending the marcite liner, replacing the 10 tons of sand in the sand filters and replacing the ceiling tiles over the pool. Most of these repairs need the pool to be drained in order to be completed.

“Now that we’re in this situation … we’re going to try to do the other work that needs to be done to the pool,” Fletcher said.

Unfortunately, draining the pool does present some risks, he added.

“Whenever you drain a swimming pool, there is the danger of what we call in the swimming pool community, ‘floating the pool,’” Fletcher said. “If there’s groundwater underneath the swimming pool, it will push the pool up out of the ground.”

This problem actually occurred at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Fletcher said. “It twisted the support girders of the building, and they had to condemn their whole student activities center because it was structurally unsound. So the administration here has been very hesitant to drain the pool, and you can understand why.”

Fortunately, there are steps to take to prevent this “floating,” Fletcher said. The pool can be drained in the fall when the water table is lower. And hydrostatic release valves can be placed in the pool, so that the pool will fill with water from underneath.

Even with all the complexities of fixing a pool of this size, the process is moving forward, Fletcher said.

“What the seminary is in the process of doing now is getting bids to have all the work done that needs to be done to the pool,” he said.

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