On June 10th, two years of planning and soaring anticipation came to a head with the unveiling and official opening of the new Bierman Family Aquatic Center at the MARC.
Unfortunately, soon after the center opened staff found themselves addressing a messy and quite unpleasant issue, as a direct result of irresponsible behavior by patrons-the issue of fecal incidents.
Even more unfortunate and rather disturbing is the fourth such incident occurring yesterday.
As Parks and Recreation Director Dan Wendorf explained, aside from being messy and unpleasant to address, fecal incidents prove costly for the center and are easily preventable. To make matters worse, each of the incidents went unreported and were discovered by either center staff or patrons.
“Unfortunately nobody has come forward in either incident,” he explains.
“In each instance a lifeguard or patron has made the discovery.”
Upon discovery of an incident, procedure of addressing the issue varies on the nature of the issue and is based upon guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
“Our first course of action in any case is to clear the pool,” Wendorf adds.
“Then we have the quite unpleasant task of assessing what sort of incident we’re dealing with. If we find the fecal matter is formed, then it is a rather easy fix. We retrieve and dispose of the matter, spot-treat with chlorine and after about an hour-long waiting period for the chlorine to do its job of disinfecting; the pool can resume normal operations.”
However in the event of non-formed matter, Wendorf explains the procedure is much more time-consuming and costly.
“Unfortunately, each of the incidents we have had so far have been those of non-formed feces. In each case, we have had to not only clear the pool but also close the entire center. This of course is very inconvenient for our visitors and costly for us to address. Once the pool is cleared, we then must ‘shock’ the pool, which means raising chlorine levels to disinfect.”
Wendorf adds draining the pool is not a reasonable option due to its size.
“Our pool holds 383,000 gallons of water so draining would not only be more time consuming, but much more expensive. The shocking process takes approximately 24 hours. We have been very fortunate to be able to open the center on-time every day following an incident. We are able to do this by slowly decreasing chlorine levels toward the end of the disinfection period. Then when noon rolls around we can open and our visitors will once again have a safe, sanitary aquatic center to visit and enjoy.”
Wendorf estimates each incident to have cost the center approximately $1,000.
“It’s certainly not cheap that’s for sure.”
“That estimate is just figuring in the chemicals needed to shock the pool and the staff wages to do so. That figure does not include lost revenue and of course the inconvenience and disappointment for our community. There is really no way to put a price on that.”
In moving forward, the center has now begun selling swim diapers in hopes of helping to curb the issue.
“We’re hoping this will help, but ultimately it comes down to parents and guardians. We could have five semi trailers full of swim diapers sitting out here, but it is the responsibility of parents and guardians to assure those who need these swim diapers on, should have them on.”
“We are hoping this is a phase that will eventually pass and we can keep the center open on schedule. I can’t emphasize enough how preventable these incidents are.”
“I’m a parent myself and I fully understand how accidents happen, we get that 100%. But part of being a grown-up and a parent is taking care of your children and teaching them life lessons. In at least 2 of these incidents, if parents or caretakers would have come forward immediately and let us know what happened, the issue would have been easily rectifiable rather than having full-day closures.”
“All we are asking for is for aquatic center visitors to be responsible and do the right thing. If something happens, come and let us know immediately so we can take care of it right away.”
Wendorf advises to date, raising rates has not been considered to recoup cost.
However he did indicate the possibility of future suspension from the center and/or revocation of a season pass for visitors, who are found to be blatantly violating aquatic center rules and regulations.