The swimming pool at Riverside-Brookfield High School was closed for five days last week after a mechanical breakdown threw the chemical balance in the water out of whack.
“The electronic device for the pool’s chemical system malfunctioned,” District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said in an email on Monday. “Over the last few days while the pool was closed a certified technician worked with the district’s facilities staff to get the water at the correct levels.”
The pool was closed after a boys water polo match on April 5. After the game, a number of the players complained of burning eyes. Apparently too much chlorine was added to the water because the regulator of the pump malfunctioned.
“My son’s black Speedo turned gray,” said Beth Marcou, the mother of a RBHS water polo player.
Even spectators in the bleachers above the pool noticed that something was off on April 5.
“Just sitting here [on the bleachers] my eyes were burning,” said Lenita Hepker, also the mother of a RBHS water polo player.
The pool reopened on Monday April 11, even though the defective part had not yet been replaced. Chemicals were manually added to the pool and water polo players during Monday’s match against McHenry reported no problems.
Skinkis said the district has ordered a new part to fix the system.
“The district has initiated the process to replace the electronic monitoring system,” Skinkis said in his email.
A home girls varsity water polo match was switched to Glenbrook North last week and one boys varsity home match and a JV Invitational were cancelled while the RB pool was closed.
Some members of the girls water polo team noticed a problem on the morning of April 5 and reportedly were splashing their burning eyes with water from a water fountain after practice. Unlike swimmers, water polo players do not wear goggles.
RBHS Interim Athletic Director Tom Domin said that the pH balance in the water never got out of acceptable levels but the pool was shut down because the pH level was higher than what school officials wanted to see.
“It wasn’t out of acceptable ranges, but it was at the high end where we didn’t want it,” Domin said.
The RBHS pool, part of a renovation and expansion project, has been beset by a number of problems since it was built. The ventilation system in the pool wasn’t sufficient until a second fan was added, and last summer a lighting fixture came unhinged and crashed to the pool deck. Ceiling fixtures were recently reinforced.
Last fall the teeth of a member of the RBHS girls swimming team became discolored. The girl’s dentist told the girl’s parents that the discoloration, which was scraped off by the dentist, was a reaction that some people have to an incorrect pH balance in the water. The problem has not recurred for the girl, who also plays water polo, and appears to have been an isolated incident.