Toddlers' mishaps in the Wolfe Park pool have forced temporary closings to allow staffers to clean up the mess. But this summer's heat wave has been trying people's patience, as patrons have to remove their belongings from the pool area during chlorination treatments.
On Wednesday, a number of readers commenting on Monroe Patch's Facebook page asked the site to look into why there have been more closings this year than in years past. Parks & Recreation Dir. Frank Cooper answered those concerns during an interview that afternoon.
"People are upset," Cooper said. "They paid their money and they want to swim. I think people understand that accidents happen, but because of the intense heat that we've been going through, people are looking for relief."
There have been a higher number of instances of young children throwing up and going to the bathroom in the pool this year, according to Cooper. While he said there have been more of these "unfortunate incidents" than there should be, Cooper added that safety is his lifeguards' number one priority when time is needed to do a proper clean up.
Vomit is considered a minor incident and the guidelines include a clean up of the spill and "super chlorination" of the pool to kill the bacteria. Cooper said it is a one or two hour cycle.
Feces are considered a major incident, and are a bigger problem when it's diarrhea, according to Cooper. He said such incidents lead to two to four hour shutdowns of the pool.
The pool hours is currently open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, and Cooper said if a clean up is needed at 4 or 5 p.m., the pool is closed for the rest of the day.
Whenever there is a clean up, Cooper said pool patrons are encouraged to go down to the beach area of Great Hollow Lake. There are no lifeguards there due to a lack of use, but he said the pool lifeguards move on to the lake when the pool is closed for a clean up.
"People have been getting upset about my lifeguards, because they were asking everybody to take their stuff with them when the pool has to be cleaned," Cooper said. "Now if there is an incident, if people want to leave their chairs and umbrellas so they can come back, they can."
No Kiddie Pool
Wolfe Park used to have a main pool with a kiddie pool off to the side, but since the town installed a new swimming pool, it's been shared by all ages.
"That's a huge difference," Cooper said. "It happened then," he added of toddlers getting sick in the pool, "but it was segregated. The kiddie pool would be closed and super chlorinated."
Now when an incident occurs, the entire pool is closed down for a clean up.
Cooper said parents of toddlers have to realize how their children's accidents can have an impact on everyone else and should take the responsibility to dress them in rubber swim pants over their diapers.
"Kids that are three, that you think are potty trained, could have an accident," he said. "A policy change may be a good idea, but parents may resist it."
Cooper said another potential solution is to have a splash pad area for small children. "The little guys just want to get wet," he said. "They're not trying to swim. Splash pads have water that bubbles up and things that spray water down on your head to cool you off. And there's no threat of drowning."
'Human Oil Slicks'
There is one other problem at the pool this summer that Cooper doesn't have any answers for — oil from suntan lotion lowering chlorine levels and creating a "milky condition" compromising water clarity.
Scanning the blankets and chairs around the pool, it doesn't take long to see someone slathering liberal amounts of suntan lotion and sunscreen all over their bodies. When swimmers crowd into the pool, Cooper said they become "human oil slicks".
"You can see a kid swimming and the oil left behind," he said. "It works against what the new chlorination system is trying to do. The sun hits and you can see the oil trickling on the water. I'm not sure how to handle that."