By Paul Downer
By Paul Downer
When the West Carver Community Pool opens for its 20th season this Thursday, June 7, many of the enthusiastic swimmers entering the gates will have little concept of the effort that goes into maintaining the pool season after season.
They don’t need to concern themselves with such things, because city staff members have that area covered.
Public Works Director Brent Aretz has been involved with the yearly operation of the pool since day one, and he explained that maintaining the pool equipment is a year-round process that doesn’t simply start in the spring when local residents start thinking about breaking out the swim suits for the first time.
"It really starts in the fall when we start to shut the pool down," said Aretz.
After the last swimmers exit the pool for the season, typically around Stiftungsfest at the end of August, city workers pump water from the pool into a storm sewer until only one step is still covered with water at the pool entrance. That brings the water level below the jets, skimmers and lights that are built into the pool wall.
The remaining water is left to freeze over the winter to help hold the pool floor in place against pressure from water that freezes underneath the pool floor.
"It’s just a big ice cube in the winter," said Aretz, adding that the expanding ice doesn’t damage the pool because it is able to move upward. Plugs cover any openings so that moisture doesn’t flow into the pipe system, and the pipes themselves are sealed off. If water does get in, it can cause the pipes to crack.
In the spring, city workers finish pumping out the pool, draining the water slowly so they can wipe the pool walls and floor down with a special cleaning acid as the water recedes.
In addition, the wastewater treatment plant personnel bring in the vacuum truck to suck out all leaves, dirt, bugs and other debris that builds up over the off months.
Then workers hook a 2.5-inch hose to a nearby fire hydrant, and for the next seven hours or so let the hydrant run until it has filled the large pool with approximately 121,000 gallons of water and the kiddie pool with about 2,140 gallons.
The whole process takes about 16 working hours, after which the circulating pumps are turned on for about two days to recycle water through the system, work out any air that might have leaked in, and detect any cracks.
During regular operation, the pumps recycle every gallon of water in the pool every four hours, running the water through sand filters to remove any debris.
At the same time, city workers stop by the pool three times a day – and twice a day during weekend hours – to monitor water temperature and composition to make sure proper chemical levels are maintained. The pool is required to stay right around 80 degrees, and if the temperature drops or infectious material is released into the pool, it must be shut down until chemical treatments have done their work or the temperature is restored.
Factors like the number of people at the pool, rain and air temperature introduce constantly changing variables that must be taken into account.
"It’s not just a quick overnight to get it ready, and it doesn’t quit," said Aretz. "We get the pool running and then we’re up here three times a day. It’s like a big bathtub, and if it’s not controlled properly things can happen."
While monitoring various factors can be complicated, Aretz said there have never been any significant safety or maintenance issues at the pool outside of redoing the brickwork around the pool edge twice, grouting and repairing the occasional cracked pipe.
And for Aretz, providing the opportunity for local families to swim or simply enjoy a few hours at the pool on a hot summer day makes all the effort worthwhile.
"The fun part of it all is seeing the kids in here," he said.
Hours: 1-4:45, 6-9 Mon-Wed-Fri
1-4:45, 7-9 Tues-Thurs
1:4:45, 5-9 Sat-Sun
Rates: Family season, $100
Adult season, $75
Student season, $60
Adult day, $5,
Student day, $4
Promos: Opening day, June 7, free
Half-price Fridays – new this year, $2 admission for children 12 and under every Friday when accompanied by paid adult.