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What's Wrong With the Pool at Wolfe Park?

Park staffers are narrowing down a list of potential issues until the water clarity problem is pinpointed and resolved.

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.

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"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.

Safety First

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."

Pops August 08, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I like Barney and the Monroe Guy. I think they are very funny and they tell a story of how ridiculous this town has become with people like Vavrek and O’Hara running it. Jim "cement pond" that’s supposed to be funny…that’s just stupid. Jim, I think you’re just a Vavrek defender and Barney and the Monroe Guy must have hurt your feelings. Don’t take it so seriously it’s only Monroe and as someone said earlier we’ve already become” the joke of Fairfield county”. LOL
jim laguardia August 08, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Yes you nailed it I am a Vavrek defender..... That may be the funniest thing ever written in the history of comedy. And if you think their brand of comedy is funny then you would know that the cement pond is a classic
Pops August 08, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Jim, take a deep breath, loosen your girdle then go jump in the lake. Oh sorry you can’t do that… the lake is closed too. Wish that was just humor but it’s fact…this town is a total joke…try to relax Jim...LOL
Mansfield August 08, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Monroe IS the joke of Fairfield County. A beer salesman running the town who thinks parents are "education loving mommies." A planning and zoning chairman who doesn't want families moving into town, is anti-business, and a leader in the anti-education movement. What a combo-what a town!
jim laguardia August 08, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Girdle.... How did you know?? I think the person who needs to relax is the one using words like stupid etc...
Kyle P August 08, 2012 at 08:38 PM
The simple answer to your question is that the cost to staff the lake over the summer is two high in regard to how often it is open. To a monroe resident, it may seem that anyone can get into the lake, "when it is open". However consider this, security sits at the guard post, and checks cars for parking stickers. Non-residents have to pay for stickers. In order for someone to just walk in for free, they would have to be a resident, or park in overflow and walk down to the lake. I dont support memberships for residents simply because they already pay taxes. However you cannot charge more then twice to a non-resident the cost of resident entrance. So if residents were free so would non-residents. Just like the issue with senior citizens, you would get large numbers of non-residents coming in for free putting more stress on the pool.
Mary Poppins August 08, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I haven't been to the new pool..when my kids were small we used the lake everyday; never went to the pool. Is the new pool bigger than the old one? If so, I'd wager that once again, the town put the cart before the horse. Cooper already hinted at it..saying that some of the mechanicals from the old pool were not replaced when they built the new pool. We will probably be told in the near future that the filtration system is not adequate due to age to work properly for the pool. My guess is that the filtration system is not adequate due to an increase in the pool size. Most people know if you get a bigger pool (town or backyard) in most cases you also need to get a bigger filter. I think they knew the filter wasn't adequate, but hoped they could get by with it for a few years and then upgrade. If my guess is right, then shame on town officials.
Lisa B. August 08, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Kyle - I understand that - but as a resident - I paid for a pass that allows our family access to the beach - to the sand. Not just to park in the lot. Those were always two separate things. Now we hear that once your car is in - the access to the sand and the water is free. And apparently word is out - that all you have to do is pay the per car fee and you can access the water too. So given that there are now no lifeguards - town residents are essentially paying for a lake that is unstaffed - that anyone who pays the per car fee can swim in - and a pool that is partially closed or totally closed on average 20-30% of the time. My only point is that next year - all of these families will do something else with their family membership money - leaving P&R in an even deeper hole. And for the record - I was told on 7/10 that a pump was broken. Why are we just narrowing that down on 8/9?
Wolfe August 08, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Jim, I agree with almost EVERYTHING you wrote about concerning this situation. The only point I would differ on is pointing fingers at any person or group of people for the mess that the pool and lake at Wolfe Park has become. When was the pool "fixed" to it's current state (with a walk-in water area and kiddie pool)? Why didn't anyone ever check the filters and the motors on those filters to see if they were fit for commercial use? Why is everybody so quick to place the blame on Steve Vavrek instead of on the Park and Recreation Department, which oversees the use and maintenance of the entire Wolfe Park? As for not having enough lifeguards, I would gladly fill one of those positions. But would any of you want to see me, a middle-aged man who looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy with hair, as a lifeguard?? Let's be realistic here, folks. And to those people who threw a fit at the lifeguards, you should not be allowed into Wolfe Park again. The lifeguards did not do anything wrong. But you people (and I use that word loosely here) acted like little crybabies. Lisa, good points. Mary Poppins---stop the finger pointing. Monroe Guy, please, for the love of humanity, learn how to spell.
Joe Namath August 09, 2012 at 12:56 AM
All this because of a cloudy pool. Sounds like you guys have alot of time on your hands.
jim laguardia August 09, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Joe Namath .... Wow in our midst
JR August 09, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Please Monroe, don't charge residents if you can't fufill your end. Total crap which this town has become under Republican leadership! Please look at towns like Fairfield and Westport who offer quality recreation at no cost to taxpayers. Monroe - wake up - you have become a crappy town!!!
JR August 09, 2012 at 01:29 AM
barney - you are a Fife!!! Be fair- not square! Vavrek is a dope!
JR August 09, 2012 at 01:35 AM
You have a job and complain- try welfare you big baby!!!
Mary Poppins August 09, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Wolfe..the only finger pointing I am doing is saying that I am guessing that the flter system isn't sufficient for the new pool. You asked the same question I did "Why didn't anyone ever check the filters and the motors on those filters to see if they were fit for commercial use?" Maybe I shouldn't say shame on town officials but shame on whoever was in charge of the new pool design and approved it. I also could be all wrong on the problem with the pool.
Herman M August 09, 2012 at 01:52 AM
The pool is a microcosm of a town mismanaged.
W.P. Maintainer August 09, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Some of these numbers are off the top of my head, but the new pool is smaller than the old setup combined at roughly 216,000 gallons. Our filter system, which is meant for commercial operation, filters the pool water at approximately 400 gpm, Based on the rough numbers and calculations, the pool water is completely cycled roughly once every nine hours, slightly less than three times a day. Again, I don't have the exact numbers, but I'm sure they're pretty close.
W.P. Maintainer August 09, 2012 at 02:26 AM
I'll put my two cents in as a W.P. Maintainer for the current summer season, and one that's been working every summer for the past 6 years. Things have changed greatly since the new pool has been built, such as the way that chlorine is managed, the amount of people that come in and use the pool everyday, allowing food and drinks outside of water (which once were never allowed to be in the pool area period) which can increase the chance of kids getting sick while swimming, etc. I am very proud to say that I have been working my best to keep the pool clean since it has been opened this season; I vacuum the pool's floor first thing in the morning. I too am aggravated that people can't use the pool fully, they should be able to get what they paid for. But they need to understand something. People discussing this article may complain or write as if they know what they're talking about, when it most cases it's not entirely accurate. They should know that we diligently monitor chlorine levels, ORP, calcium ppm, pH, etc. to make sure that everything runs smoothly. It's VERY difficult to keep the numbers regulated and constant when variables like kids getting sick in the pool (an occurrence more frequent than with the old pool because more people & private groups use and now can eat in the new area) and improper applications/removals of sunscreen, make it difficult for our equipment to work properly, hence the cloudiness. Please read and follow pool rules first, then complain.
W.P. Maintainer August 09, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Not every part of the filtration system was changed over with the new pool. Seeing as how I do not have a pool operator's license and do not know what needs to be replaced, I am not willing to elaborate on how the system currently works and risk people being misinformed.
CN August 09, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Amazing how the town pool and park has become the hotel 6 for surrounding towns and city in the past several years. Have you ever tried playing basketball at our court? So much for it being a "Town Park"
Jan Watson August 10, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Is Great Hollow Lake closed? Is this why? (taken from another post) "There are all kinds of septic problems up and down Rt. 25 in Monroe, most notably at North Brook Condominiums. That’s why after hard rains Park officials have to close Great Hollow Lake for swimming. After heavy rains much of the sewage and effluent in the Rt. 25 corridor overflows their respective ground containment areas, then enters the water table and then flows into Great Hollow Lake. When that happens the Escherichia coli (E.coli) levels fly off the chart. This has been a well known problem for some time yet Monroe officials including First Selectman Vavrek have been reluctant to disclose this to the public. Failed septic systems in the Rt. 25 corridor also contribute greatly to polluting the Pequonnock River. Come and enjoy a swim at Great Hollow Lake in Monroe where the affluent meets the effluent."
Steve Kirsch August 10, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Jon, where did this come from? I would like to learn more.
Alex August 10, 2012 at 08:21 PM
If that's true that's very disturbing...
Need Answers August 10, 2012 at 08:38 PM
@Kirsche ecoli is a big problem at Great Hollow that’s as far as I know. There is a guy on the Conservation Commission I believe his name is Marvin that has been very active in monitoring this situation. Maybe he can tell you what is going on.
Steve Kirsch August 10, 2012 at 09:04 PM
I want to know about the Route 25 and Northbrook Condo problem statements. I had heard about the lake, but not this other/related issue
Herman M August 10, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Marvin is a big time Vavrek supporter. He will not disclose any information without checking with Vavrek first.
Christine E. August 10, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I heard something similar once about Northbrook. I know there is a big drainage issue, and the water is starting to creep up closer and closer to the units near 25.
Christine E. August 10, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Steve, It's a statement someone made on the article about the new Diner.
Fairfielder April 10, 2013 at 04:22 PM
I wouldn't put Fairfield on a pedestal, JR. Our lake constantly has dog poop in it, but we do have a lot of lifeguards there and hardly any lakegoers. We do have the beach, but the water is pretty foul--we would love to have a town pool! That's why we all go up to your pool and bitch at the staff when we can't use it. Whaaa!! It's probably Fairfielders who are causing all the commotion at the pool!
Crown Royal April 10, 2013 at 06:03 PM
I can only wonder what caused you to stumble on an article that is more than a half a year old.

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