Aquatic Center fails to meet safety regulations

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

After being closed for nearly a month, the city’s year-round indoor pool will be reopened for a limited time to only the Clovis High School Swim team, according to city officials.

A waiver to allow the swim team to use the pool until March 1 will be approved, according to state Environment Department Spokeswoman Marissa Stone. The pool will remain closed to the public until the city installs safety features that meet federal guidelines.

Clovis High swim coach Vincent de Maio said he expects the 27-member swim team to resume practicing at the pool on Monday.

He said the team had been using the pool at Clovis Community College.

“It’s great that the community came together to give them the opportunity to pursue (their sport),” he said.

New Mexico Environment Department inspectors shut down the Clovis Aquatic Center in December for not complying with federal and state safety codes, according to Parks and Recreation Director Rob Carter.

Carter said the city will have to replace the main drain located at the bottom of the deep end of the pool and cover pipes that could trap swimmers.

Carter said the project is estimated to cost between $20,000 to $25,000.

He said the pool’s drain does not have federally-required safety features. Suction from the drain could trap swimmers under water, he said. Carter said the pool also had pipes in the pool that could potentially trap swimmers while under water.

Carter said the city will also have to install new grates on the drains at the Potter Park swimming pool.

Public pools are required to have systems that prevent entrapment under the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007.

City Legislative and Community Development Director Claire Burroughes said the city had until December to replace its drains but was not aware of the federal requirement until late October.

She said the city’s purchasing department is working on procurement for the replacement safety drain system. She said the city is negotiating with the contractor that built the pool.

The Aquatics Center was closed for nine months in mid-2006 for not adhering to state safety standards. It reopened in September 2007 after the city spent more than $450,000 on renovations.