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Dimond Park Aquatic Center forced to close pools Wed. morning

Aquatics manager says circulation pump, salt cells failed

Posted: August 15, 2012 - 11:07pm
Daniel Chase, manager of the Dimond Park Aquatic Center, points out the recreation and lap pool pumps in the pool's mechanical room on Wednesday. One pump failed Wednesday and had to be reset, resulting in the closure of the leisure pool.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Daniel Chase, manager of the Dimond Park Aquatic Center, points out the recreation and lap pool pumps in the pool's mechanical room on Wednesday. One pump failed Wednesday and had to be reset, resulting in the closure of the leisure pool.

A mechanical failure at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center prompted it to close for part of Wednesday morning.

Aquatics manager Kathrin Millhorn attributed the trouble to pool equipment she said may have been affected by a power disruption. An outage occurred in part of the Mendenhall Valley just after 7:20 a.m. Wednesday morning.

A user of the facility emailed Thursday morning to say the leisure pool was closed as of 6:40 a.m., when he arrived at the facility, some time before the outage occurred.

“The circulation pump for the leisure pool went down,” said Millhorn. “When the circulation pump stops working, the water stops flowing and the salt cells shut down.”

Without a steady flow of at least 240 gallons of water per minute, Millhorn explained, the salt chlorine generators cannot function.

“The salt generators need a specific amount of water flowing in order to keep producing chlorine,” Millhorn said.

Public pools are chlorinated as a disinfectant.

“The chlorine kills all the nasty germs and bugs that might come in on people’s skin and bodies,” said Millhorn. “We need to have disinfectant in the pool.”

Millhorn said the lap pool’s circulation pump appeared to be functioning normally, but its salt generators were not producing chlorine.

“When we realized our chlorine levels were dropping … we immediately closed the pools down,” said Millhorn. She said staff acted quickly enough that no swimmers were exposed to too-low levels of the disinfectant.

The Thunder Mountain High School swim team was practicing in the lap pool when it was shut down shortly after 8 a.m.

“We actually got to almost finish up our practice (until) about 8:20,” said Jason Wilson, head coach. “We were almost done anyway.”

The lap pool reopened at about 9:30 a.m., Millhorn said. The leisure pool, which is also known as the recreation pool and includes a water channel, reopened by 11 a.m. Pool manager Daniel Chase said its circulation pump had to be reset.

Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. spokeswoman Debbie Ferreira said the power outage Wednesday morning originated at the Loop substation. According to Ferreira, that substation serves the northern Mendenhall Valley, but does not cover Riverside Drive, where the Aquatic Center is located.

Although Ferreira said she was not aware of specific disruptions outside the Loop substation’s feeder area, she said failures on one part of the power grid may cause brief fluctuations elsewhere.

“When Loop substation dropped, other things are affected, naturally, as part of that, because everything is connected,” said Ferreira. “This is common for an outage, that there would be a fluctuation in voltage.”

Wilson said the power was out at the Aquatic Center for over an hour Wednesday morning.

Ferreira stressed that residential and commercial customers alike should invest in surge protection equipment to avoid damage from sudden spikes and sags in power.

“That’s just the nature of electricity. There’s not much you can do about that,” Ferreira said. “That’s why we remind customers as often as we can that they need to protect their equipment.”

At the Aquatic Center, Millhorn said, building maintenance staff are looking into why the mechanical failure occurred and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

“We were kind of caught off guard with the circulation pump shutting down for the leisure pool,” said Millhorn. “With the power outage and brownouts, we’ve never had a circulation pump shut down completely.”

This time, though, Millhorn said staff responded quickly and made the right call by shutting down the pools.

“Guest safety is our highest priority at this facility, and if that means that we have to close for a bit to solve those problems, then we will do that,” said Millhorn. “We don’t want anybody to get sick or injured while they are here.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

Editors' note: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from users of the Dimond Park Aquatic Center.

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