boy swimming
Wednesday, June 6, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

PARD patching up two pools as summer sun bears down

As the summer heat tightens its grip on Austin, the city is scrambling to get two public pools sidelined last year by severe leaks back into serviceable shape.

On Monday, the Parks and Recreation Department’s acting director, Kimberly McNeeley, sent a memorandum to City Council detailing efforts to stanch the wasted water at Givens and Mabel Davis pools, both east of Interstate 35.

“The condition of the pools is not a surprise to us,” Aquatic Division Manager Jodi Jay told the Austin Monitor on Tuesday. “We fight battles every single day to keep the pools operational and in good working, safe condition for the public. Every now and then, there’s a battle that we lose. However, we do as best we can to get pools back up and running as soon as possible.”

In the case of Givens Pool in East Austin, the 2014 Aquatic Facilities Needs Assessment identified it along with six other pools as likely to fail completely within five years. By the end of the summer of 2016, a routine check revealed that Givens was losing 50,000 gallons of water per day.

Repairs amounting to $250,000 paid for with 2012 bond money kept the pool closed during 2017. According to McNeeley’s memo, however, the situation appears to be worse than before.

“Unfortunately, after this significant investment, the pool system is still leaking approximately 60,000 gallons of water per day,” she revealed.

Jay said that her team has been able to reduce that number further by adjusting water levels and recapturing water lost. She estimated the 500,000-gallon pool now leaks 20,000 gallons each day. But matters could grow worse, putting Givens at risk for emergency closure.

Jay said the pool is simply at the end of its life cycle.

“We make the repair, but the infrastructure is just to the point where the pressure from the water on the other side is causing additional leaks as we go,” she explained.

Meanwhile, at Southeast Austin’s Mabel Davis Pool, crews are putting the finishing touches on repairs aimed at patching up massive leaks. Just before the summer season last year, the city discovered that the pool was hemorrhaging 219,000 gallons of water each day. Environmental procedures due to the pool’s location on top of a landfill complicated the process to fix the leaks, forcing the city to shut down operations last year.

2012 bond money also covered the expense. While she was unable to provide an exact figure, Jay said the cost was significantly lower than the repairs at Givens because that job required the services of a professional engineer.

Jay said she hopes to have Mabel Davis reopened by late June or early July.

“But just like with Givens, we won’t know the full extent of how the repairs work until we actually get water in the pools and see what’s going on,” she said.

McNeeley’s memo also revealed that a crack in a filtration motor forced the temporary closure of Patterson Pool. That facility is expected to reopen within the week. Similarly, mechanical issues that have shuttered the Pease and Chestnut splash pads are expected to be resolved in a week.

McNeeley also wrote that PARD is monitoring the six other pools that the 2014 Aquatic Assessment identified along with Givens as being due for imminent failure. Of those, Shipe and Govalle have been shut down pending complete replacement.

The remaining four – Civitan, Gillis, Montopolis and Northwest pools – have already opened for the season or are nearing opening day.

“So far, so good,” Jay provided as an assessment. “No news is good news.”

Photo by Pfc. Levi Schultz.

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City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department: The city department responsible for the city's park system, rec centers, and associated infrastructure.

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