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Clean-up is major undertaking for North Liberty’s indoor pool

NORTH LIBERTY– It was just a piece of glass the size and texture of a dried pea.
Even so, it caused an estimated $5,000 worth of problems for the City of North Liberty.
A young patron at the North Liberty Aquatic Center’s indoor pool stepped on the fragment in the 5-foot depth area, though the swimmer did not get cut. Once pool staff identified the fragment, the incident set in motion the procedure for evacuating, closing and inspecting the pool.
“Once we know it is glass, we clear the pool immediately for patrons’ safety, and start draining. Glass cannot always be seen or picked up by a vacuum, so for public safety we drain and ensure all pieces are removed from the pool,” said Aquatic Director Katie Gerot.
Gerot said there are several types of circumstances that require attention in order to make sure swimmers are safe in all aspects, including potentially hazardous foreign objects that make their way into the pool, like when excessive severe weather damage blows things such as roofing materials or limbs from trees. Also, Gerot said, there are other instances that would require the pool to be closed for treatment.
“Human bodily fluids such as vomit or excessive amounts of blood and solid stools requires closing the pool for 30 minutes, with a maintained chlorine level of at least three parts per million to kill off any potential germs,” Gerot said. If diarrhea is expelled in the pool, it must be closed to disinfect the water for Crypto, she added.
“Crypto is a very serious Recreational Water Illness (RWI) that can infect many people, particularly the young, elderly, and other at-risk groups,” she said. “We ask people not to swim in public pools for at least two weeks after their last episode of diarrhea because if they have Crypto they could potentially spread infectious cells without even knowing it.”
Gerot said this is the first incident involving a glass fragment, and while it wasn’t anything as dire as a potential illness outbreak, the aquatic staff took it as seriously.
It took about 24 hours for the pool’s 277,000 gallons of water to be emptied.
After the pool is emptied, the pool’s underwater lights were inspected, but no damage was found, leading Gerot to believe the glass chip was somehow inadvertently carried into the pool area.
“It had to have come in with someone– a patron or staff member,” Gerot said. “No other glass was found in the pool, so we suspect it was possibly something that fell out of a bag or was stuck to the bottom of a shoe.”
Once the entire interior surface was inspected, it was vacuumed and then power-washed to make sure no debris remained. Staff set about refilling the pool, fed from a 3-inch pipe that fills at a rate of roughly 9,000 gallons per hour. Once refilled, it takes about two days to add the necessary chemicals and get the water back up to proper temperature for use.
The outdoor pool remained open the entire time, and the indoor pool reopened on Tuesday, July 1.
The procedures to clean the two pools are typically done annually as regular maintenance. The indoor pool is rarely emptied all together, Gerot said, unless repainting or filter replacements are necessary. The outdoor pool is emptied in September and refilled for the summer season each May.
Since it’s a significant undertaking to properly address such emergencies, Gerot suggests the public always take a few simple precautions before entering any public swimming pool.
“Please follow all the posted pool rules. Each one has a specific reason and need behind it,” Gerot said. “Hopefully everyone now understands the importance of why we stress no glass of any kind, other than eyewear, in the pool area. All pool rules are evaluated each year and changed when necessary to ensure we are able to provide the best and safest experience to the public.”