Illustration by Tim Bobko
 

I was the supervisor of a new family aquatics center that was ending construction and readying for its grand opening. I had a maintenance staff worker named John, who loved to smoke and call me “college boy.” Just before opening the new center, John was looking down into the pump pit, when he asked what turned out to be a prescient question. “Hey, college boy,” he said. “How you gonna get those pumps and motors out?” 

Thinking fast on my feet, I replied that they were installed and lowered into place before the roof went on the equipment room.

“I know that,” said John, puffing away on his cigarette. “But how you gonna get them out?” 

I was getting annoyed by the persistent questioning. “We should get years of service out of those pumps and motors before they have to be removed,” I said. 

Fast forward eight months, following a very successful first summer season. The facility was being drained for off-season repairs to expansion joints.  John had been using the main pump to drain the pool. 

However, he was leaving for the night and the pool was not completely drained, so he decided he would expedite the draining process during the evening. He had the brilliant idea of opening the strainer baskets, flooding the floor of the pump pit and letting the sump pump drain the rest of the pool. You can see where this is going!

The next morning John arrived at the facility, smoking a cigarette as usual, to find the pump pit had flooded, tripping the GFI outlet, shutting off power to the sump pump.  Both of the pumps and motors were entirely flooded — and on the brink of ruin!

After saying a few choice words, John called and confessed that he’d been using the sump pump inappropriately. It was my turn to play the wise guy.

“I didn’t take a class in college on that,” I said. “You broke it, you fix it. I suggest you figure out how to get what were perfectly good pumps and motors, which are now flooded, out of the pump pit and equipment room and in for repairs.”

The most brilliant of pulley systems was created. It was mounted on an I-beam, swiveling to a sled to put the motors on, so they could mechanically be pulled up the stairs of the pit.

The creation of this contraption cost more than $1,750, and the baking of the motors and replacement of the bearings were even more money. Even though John was wrong to use the equipment the way he did, he was right about one thing: Failing to account for how to remove the pumps and motors for repair created quite a flooded fiasco.