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High School's Higginbottom Pool Closed Until Feb. 1

Attempts to bring water quality levels to state health requirements failed.

The Higginbottom Pool, during happier days.
The Higginbottom Pool, during happier days.
Just when swimmers, parents and town officials didn't think the growing problems at the Higginbottom Pool at Belmont High School could get worse, it just did.

After attempts by the town's Facilities Department to "shock" the water in the six lane, 25-yard-long pool to meet state health standards failed on Friday, the town has decided to close the popular indoor facility until Feb. 1 as it now begins scheduling repairs and cleaning of the 43-year-old facility. 

"We're frustrated by what has happened because it was not for lack of effort on our part," said David Kale, Belmont town administrator, Monday morning, Jan. 20, to Belmont Patch at the annual Martin Luther Day Breakfast held at Belmont High School.

The cleaning and repairs are beginning immediately, said Kale.

In emails to Belmont Patch, parents of swimmers have expressed their frustration at the continued closure of the pool which will now be closed for more than a month and a half by Feb. 1.

"[We] are getting irate after yet another missed swim meet yesterday and additional missed swim practices with no alternatives suggested or even being explored by the rec department," said one parent.

According to reports, Belmont Health Department personnel determined Friday, Jan. 17, that the latest "double shock" attempt by the Facilities Department to bring down the "combined chlorine" levels at the Higginbottom had not reached the standard required under state health regulations and so they refused to sign off on reopening the pool that has been closed since before Christmas, said Kale.

Shocking is also known as super chlorinating where three to five times the normal amount of chlorine or other chemical sanitizer is placed in the pool water to drastically raise the chlorine level for a short time to remove ineffective chlorine amounts and kill bacteria and anything organic.

After the Board of Health's action, Kale said the town reached out to its pool consultants which recommended the more extensive step of draining the pool, cleaning the tub with an acid wash – for the first time in nine years – and then refilling the pool which holds roughly 200,000 gallons of water. 

The inability of the pool to meet state health requirements came on the heels of two mechanical failures that put the Higginbottom out of commission last month.

In mid-December, a 10-year-old pump at the pool "just died," Gerald Boyle, director of the town's Facilities Department this past Thursday, Jan. 16, told Belmont Patch, putting a stop to all swimming. 

"It just chose that month to stop," said Boyle.

While the new pump was installed and began running in the last week of December, it began "tripping" a breaker. The new pump was sent out to be tested which revealed it was working correctly. 

"The problem was that electrical contacts failed along with one of the breakers," said Boyle, adding they were repaired quickly.

"But we discovered that we have old wiring and old panels that need to be replaced," said Boyle, who said he has already has a quote of $1,300 from a contractor for the electrical repairs.

While the pump was either being replaced or not running due to the electrical issues, the pool's water was not being circulated for the filtration of containments and distribution of chlorine to occur.

The town had begun scheduling draining and cleaning the Higginbottom late in March, said Kale, hoping the shocking technique would allow the pool to be usable for the next two months by the Belmont High School Boys' Swimming team, two popular local youth swimming organizations; the Recreation Department's Dolphins and the competitive Belmont Aquatics Team as well as residents as the pool is open several hours, seven days a week. 

"But that was not to be," Kale said. With the pool being drained, the electrical work will also be done "all at the same time." 

Until then, the teams and residents will be without an important town asset. 

"We're working to get this up and running as quickly as possible," said Kale. 
Waverley January 20, 2014 at 10:22 PM
"After the Board of Health's action, Kale said the town reached out to its pool consultants which recommended the more extensive step of draining the pool, cleaning the tub with an acid wash – for the first time in NINE YEARS – and then refilling the pool which holds roughly 200,000 gallons of water." Yes, 9 years. This is supposed to be done every 4 or 5 years. Who is responsible for this. Is there any accountability? The town will soon be asking taxpayers to spend $4.5 million on a new summer pool. Will this new pool be neglected and mismanaged the same way as the Higginbottom? If we can't manage one pool, how on earth can we even contemplate taking on two? Oh, wait, we have tried that. It hasn't worked very well.

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