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'People Are Upset. They Paid Their Money and They Want to Swim'

Vomit, feces and "human oil slicks" have led to temporary pool closings at Wolfe Park throughout the summer.

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.

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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."

Sarah July 19, 2012 at 08:42 PM
LOVE THE IDEA OF A MINI SPLASH ZONE for the toddlers!!
Mrs.C July 19, 2012 at 11:17 PM
I am a frequent patron at the pool and both agree and disagre with many of the comments. While my children and I tan easily, I do still lotion my children. With that being said, I believe that there are some common sense rules that need to be followed. The first of which is try to lotion your children prior to going to the pool. If you need to do it at the pool, please rub it into their skin. If you see spots of white- keep rubbing. And please don't let them in the pool for about 10 minutes after applying!!!! That is how the "human oil slicks" start!!!! The second rule- if your child has just eaten, why are you letting them go swimming, or jumping in the pool right after they take their last bite- again ,the rest of us don't want to swim in the vomit. Third, As a parent of two young children ( one who is finishing potty training), my child wears a swim diaper- just in case!! Thank goodness we have never been those people, but I do feel bad for those whose children just happen to have a bad day. And on a separate note, while the splash area is a great idea, parents should be keeping eye on there kids, and tell them to be careful around the little ones.
Theresa O July 19, 2012 at 11:36 PM
I don't understand how this article explains why there are so many more closings this year. There isn't a single reason listed that isn't a factor for any other year as well. Every year people use sunscreen. Every year little kids swim in the pool, and this is the third year with no kiddie pool. So why is the pool being closed for poor visibility on a random, not very busy Monday evening at 5:00, when it didn't get closed last year on any of the busy weekend days?
C. Grey July 20, 2012 at 12:56 AM
I completely agree with Theresa. I can live with the occasional accident, though it is beyond my comprehension why people have to clear the rest of the pool area completely. But last time I checked, the pool is the same since it was opened a few years ago. The weather has not been drastically different than past years, and I would be willing to bet that the volume of people in the pool is not that different either. I bet that at any given time, no more than 30 to 40 percent of the people in the pool area are actually in the water. So the real question is, what's different? Whoever is managing the chemistry of the pool this year is failing miserably! Maybe it's an equipment problem but that should have been corrected by now. I don't see anywhere in national news that there is an epidemic of pool closures around the country, so other pool managers can obviously do their jobs. Cooper needs to suck it up and get an expert in here to fix the problem before the whole summer is gone.
Dawn Davis July 20, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Better communication is definitely needed! I showed up with my kids at the lake this evening and was told it's been closed for days due to E. coli and the next tests were not until next Monday. While complaining to the staff about the lack of communication, I was told that the Town no longer needed to provide free park access to non-residents. The grant monies that are referred to were used to build the basketball courts and the term to offer free access expired already. Does anyone know if this is true?
Lisa B. July 20, 2012 at 01:39 AM
I have to agree with C Grey - pools all over the country and world have high volume, people who use sunscreen, etc. Why can't we get it fixed and for a Parks and Recreation Director to say he doesn't know what the solution is - is a clear indication that we need an Aquatics Director with better experience - or a truthful explanation about the fact that there is a technical problem with the pool. We had a private pool from the time my son was born. He was in that pool in swim diapers from 8 months on. And he never pooped or threw up in the pool.....so if this many kids are vomiting - I would ask another question. Is there something wrong with the filter and the resulting chemical balance that is making them sick????
concerned24 July 20, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Actually Lani ...swim diapers are NOT designed to hold in urine...the package of swim diapers that parents purchase are NOT water proof..they are designed to not "swell up" like a regular diaper would...parents are supposed to use rubber swim pants over the swim diaper to prevent the poop and pee from getting into the pool..I guarantee that this is not happening...check the diaper company website.."unique absorbent material won't swell in water".
Joel Leneker July 20, 2012 at 04:32 AM
The pool should have been replaced with a huge state of the art splash park. The towns population is aging and a splash park would have provided enjoyment for people off all ages , including wheel chair access. The splash park could operate May through the end of September as no lifeguards are needed. Life guards could then have been provided a great hollow lake. We already had a public pool at Masuk. Many of the larger communities across the us are getting rid if pools from a cost and liability issue and are installing fantastic water parks. This woukd have been unique for Monroe but when I presented this idea at the public hearing for funding if the pool no one wanted to hear it. So now we deal with human oil slicks and chilfdren shutting down the pool due to vomit and feces.
christine July 20, 2012 at 12:36 PM
I have a confession to make, my 9 year old "threw up" in the pool this summer and it was consequently closed. He hadn't eaten before arriving, and he wasn't sick. An unattended child kept following him around and splashing his face. I had just stepped forward to ask the child to leave my son alone when he splashed him again, causing my son to choke. While choking, he "sort of" threw up, with a lot of coughing and frothing, it was more like gagging. He was right in front of the lifeguard though, who blew his whistle and shouted "Everybody out! A kid threw up in the pool!" Accidents do happen, but I do think the lifeguards might be a little less lenient this year. My son was extremely embarrassed, and the comments from people as we were leaving left us both feeling terrible. Accidents DO happen with children. And as a side note, the lack of parental supervision with children really annoys me, kids in the 8 and older range often have parents nowhere near, which was the cause of this incident.
Jacob's Mama July 20, 2012 at 12:51 PM
That is a very good point Theresa O. Maybe the filter is not working up to full capacity or they are cutting back on the chemicals.
Jacob's Mama July 20, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Christine that is terrible. There is no reason the teenage lifeguards we have at the pool should completely EMBARASS a child like that. I would definitley contact the director about that. You are 100% correct...accidents happen. A child splased my 2 year old son right in the face and I asked her very nicely to not splash in face. She said she was just "saying hello". Turns out her mom or whoever was with her was all the way across sitting on the grass near the deep end. I was thinking that vomitting could come from the kids accidently swallowing the water. That really annoys me about the life guard. You are a better woman than I am because I would have turned around and embarrassed him in front of everybody...and I dont' need a whistle to do it!
Jacob's Mama July 20, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Hi Dawn..it's your neighbor Kristy! Good to know the lake is closed over the weekend. Yes they should have better communication. Wolfe Park Pool has a facebook page that will post when they are closed. The lake is so "deserted" it's like they dont pay much attention to it. When Jacob is a little older we really want to get a pool..so you and the family can just come next door for swimming! LOL :)
Lani July 20, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Umm...that is exactly what I said. Here is my quote from above: "Just an fyi ... swim diapers are NOT designed to hold in urine.. only feces." Not sure why you addressed this to me.
Walt July 20, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Wonderful, a cesspool of vomit, urine and fecal matter with inattentive parents. I'll stick to my own pool.
Jacob's Mama July 20, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Hi Dawn...are you on facebook? If so, like the page "wolfe park pool". I talked with the facebook administrator and they are going to post when the lake is closed and re-opened like they do with the pool. This should help!
Christine E. July 20, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I was the one that mentioned swim diapers, and I don't believe I specified what they were designed to hold. I just said it's a good idea to wear them.
concerned24 July 20, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Lani..sorry typo on my part..swim diapers are NOT designed to hold feces in...they simply don't swell up...MUST have rubber pants OVER swim diaper....otherwise the longer they stay in the water...feces leaks right through the so called "swim diaper"
Lani July 20, 2012 at 04:02 PM
That is not quite true. Disposable swim diapers might not hold them in, but cloth, reusable swim diapers most definitely are designed to hold in feces and they work quite well. That is why the Italian Center in Stamford only allowed these to be used in their pools when we were members (no disposable versions).
concerned24 July 20, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Unfortunately what most parents are using at Wolfe Park pool are the disposable version...and that is what they sell at the entrance for $2...and I was referring to the disposable...Parents think that because they put this disposable "swim diaper" that somehow nothing is going in the water...Do the cloth ones have a rubber/plastic exterior? You should make this suggestion to Parks and Rec...they certainly are not enforcing the "rubber pant" rule that is currently in place.....
QWERTY July 20, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Not a good idea to read this page before, during or after lunch.
Dasher July 20, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I bought my pool/lake pass and have gone to the pool once this year mainly because the place was so noisy and also the water so cold and crowded. I could hardly walk in the water without folks bumping into me. I have gone to the lake about 5 times including tuesday of this week. Each time there are no lifeguards, and perhaps 4 or 5 families. There is also no one checking passes, so I am wondering why I spent the money for one ! The water is on the warm side and quite pleasant until you get up to your thighs and then it is nothing but gross rotting leaves on the bottom. I think this may be a huge turn off for many since I heard everyone mentioning it. Wouldnt it be great if the bottom of the swim area in the lake can get cleaned up every other May ? I think it is a beautiful place which is underused and I really think this is a huge reason why.
Lani July 20, 2012 at 05:33 PM
yes, they have nylon layers usually, not always on the exterior- depends on brand. You can see examples here http://www.bummis.com/us/en/swimmi.php and here http://www.target.com/s/reusable+swim+diapers and here http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=537414 I have used all these versions with great success on my kids.
blackie July 23, 2012 at 02:38 PM
It should be a requirement for any child under the age of 4 to be in rubber diaper toppers.
Jacob's Mama July 23, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I did go to the pool yesterday evening. Aside from the water being cold it was a pleasant experience. I do not seem many of the rules posted being enforced. For example, kiddie toys and pool toys are not supposed to be allowed in the pool. But they were all over the place. Confusing for my son because I told him we could not bring toys to the pool. Even a life guard was hit in the head with a pool frisbie. But they kids kept playing with it. The life guard must have yelled at this one group of kids like 8 times in the hour i was there.
Barbara116 July 23, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Common thoughts on GHL are that the water is gross. looks like combination of iced tea and urine. It's ok to play in sand but on a super hot day, you need the water. Put a kid splash area that can be used by everyone at both places. Monroe made an error digging that lake instead of a second pool!
Steven Goldstein July 23, 2012 at 09:45 PM
They usually allow the kids to play with their toys in the shallow water. If any thing they over enforce the rules. The whistle never stops
Caitlin K. July 24, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Hi everyone, please consider "liking" the pool's page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wolfeparkpool. It's updated throughout the day with closings, event and weather information, and photos. As an employee at the pool, I'm there almost every day and have probably spoken to more than a few of you in person this summer. I'm not sure how to fix all of the problems you've mentioned, but I can at least keep you updated and give you answers and feedback to the best of my ability.
Jacob's Mama July 24, 2012 at 01:07 PM
HI Caitlin, great comment and suggestion. Can you advise if small kiddie toys are allowed in the shallow end? I'm sure it's frustrating watching and trying to enforce rules with hyper kids who are having so much fun. I do wish parents were more responsible and THEY should be enforcing the rules and common courtesy.
jim laguardia July 24, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I am pretty sure the rule is they can not have "floating" toys... I am not sure if that is a written rule?
Caitlin K. July 26, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Hello! Yes, toys like those ARE allowed in the shallow end. We do not allow inflatable toys such as beach balls, tubes, or rafts anywhere in the pool. It is frustrating to enforce the rules sometimes, especially with so many grey areas (which there are, from our perspective). The bottom line is we all want to have a fun, safe sumer at the pool. In order to do that we need need parents to keep in mind that watching a pool full of people isn't easy. The lifeguards cannot do their job well without parents accepting at least some responsibility for their children's behavior, including "accidents" in the pool.

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