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The Gypsum Recreation Center had been open for 1 1/2 years, and it was time to drain the swimming pool for cleaning and maintenance. To most operators, this sounds like an easy task. But because our city is smaller and our wastewater treatment can only handle so much, we had to take pains.

The plan was to drain the pool halfway overnight to avoid overloading the treatment plant. The remaining water would be flushed out slowly as the pool was refilled with fresh water the next day.

I spent from 8:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. dechlorinating and draining half the pool. To slow the flow, I turned the pump on to “waste” for about 10 minutes, then off for about 20 minutes. I also throttled the valve down to “waste” to slow the water down every time the pump was turned on, and I opened the valve before shutting the valve off. After all, I didn’t want to hammer the pool’s main circulation plumbing.

Everything went swimmingly that night and when I left, the pool was half empty. After catching just a few hours of sleep, I returned the following morning at 9:00. While the maintenance head went to turn on the hose, I started pumping water. Now this should have been the same operation as from the night before, but I did one step out of order. First, I throttled the valve to the waste line, and then I turned on the pump. This mistake created a whole lot of pressure that needed an outlet. And the next thing I heard was a giant BOOM!!!

My heart felt like it had jumped out of my chest as I looked down to see water pouring out of what was left of the hair and lint strainer. The lid of the strainer blew off the body, but stayed attached to the top, leaving a jagged mess.

After I recovered from my initial shock, I turned off the pump and ran down to the plumbing to isolate the strainer. There I stood, shoes soaking wet, heart racing, and a giant mixture of fear and embarrassment welling up. In less than a second, I had destroyed a 3-foot-tall, 16-inch diameter, heavy-duty PVC piece of specialized equipment.

I took a deep breath and went to tell the facility manager and maintenance head what had happened. Luckily, the immediate reaction was how to fix the problem. I Googled hair/lint strainers in the size that I needed It looked like it was an $8,000 part — before shipping and handling fees. I started calling to get information, but got only voice mail.

That’s when I realized that it was 10 a.m. on Saturday. It was also Labor Day weekend and all hair strainer companies would be closed until Tuesday. The recreation center was scheduled to reopen on Thursday. For the first time as an aquatics professional, I was stuck without a solution within the deadline. Thank goodness for the help of other professionals.

The maintenance directory had the idea of a field fabrication that would cost about one-quarter of the price of a manufactured strainer. The jagged top edge was cut off and a compression fitting was attached. The new lid uses 16 stainless steel bolts, washers and nuts, and an impact wrench vs. the eight hand-tightened bolts there before. The new strainer should hold up to more pressure than the original. Here’s hoping I never find out.