Myriad problems have dogged the Wolfe Park Pool this summer, often leading to early closings. Some days toddlers have thrown up or went to the bathroom in the pool, but a consistent problem has been cloudy water forcing lifeguards to close off the deep end.
The anger of some park members boiled over when the pool was closed yet again on Saturday, on one of the hottest days of the season.
Harold Darak has chronicled the water clarity problem on his new blog on Monroe Patch, and a growing number of residents have expressed their frustration on Facebook over the lack of answers from the park.
Parks & Recreation Dir. Frank Cooper told Patch that the water clarity problem is due to a "system failure", rather than a maintenance issue.
"There's some type of a failure at this point," Cooper said. "And we're troubleshooting. It's a system failure in the internal systems of the pool, not the actual pool itself — the pumps, the chlorination the filtration. There's something going on there that isn't functioning properly. We're trying to figure that out."
Experts who built the pool for the town were brought in to assess the problem and gave park staff a list of potential causes. Cooper said they are attempting to pinpoint the problem through the process of elimination.
Cooper said there is an issue the experts believe to be the root cause, but he declined to discuss specifics in the event it turns out to be something else.
"If they’re right, we should be seeing significant results starting tomorrow," he said Tuesday.
While attending the National Night Out at Wolfe Park Tuesday night, First Selectman Steve Vavrek said, "I definitely share the parents' frustration. Our youth staff has nothing to do with this."
Though Cooper is in his first year as Monroe's parks & recreation director, Cooper said park staff has not changed any of the past practices for maintaining the pool. "All of a sudden there is a clarity issue and we're trying to figure that out," he said.
Cooper said the closings and restrictions have all been driven by safety. For instance, if someone was drowning in the deep end of the pool when the water was cloudy, Cooper said lifeguards may not even know someone needed to be rescued.
"Whenever we close, it's all about safety," he said. "If we can't see to the bottom of the pool in the deep end, it's an unsafe situation, so we limit access to the deep end."
When the cause of the water clarity problem is discovered, Cooper said he will share that with the public. One thing both he and Vavrek did share is that the pool still has some older parts.
"Part of the issue we're looking at is when they built the new pool, some of the mechanicals that were part of the old pool were not replaced," Cooper explained.
Vavrek said, "The bottom line is it's a problem that's being addressed. The people who built the pool were called in. It's not an employee error. It's a system error and, if anything, they should be commended for all the effort, weekends and overtime they put in trying to look at it."
"The filter and the pumps are much older than the pool," Vavrek added. "They're following what the builders told them to do."
'The Most Frustrated Guy in Town'
Pool goers have been losing their patience over the mounting closings, but Cooper said he and his staff are just as disappointed.
"I'm the new guy here and the frustration level for me is quite high, because you have people who are used to a certain level of confidence and the ability of the town to provide a certain service to them," he said. "And when you can't do that, it's frustrating."
Cooper said no one is more frustrated than Russ Tice, the park superintendent, who is a certified pool operator.
"He's probably the most frustrated guy in the town of Monroe," Cooper said. "He is the person directly in charge of the pool itself."
Cooper vowed to keep at it until the problem is resolved, saying, "We're investigating all possibilities and all options."