UNH Outdoor Pool Q&A
Have there been any complaints from the state Department of Environmental Services about health or safety issues at the pool?
Over the years we have addressed issues raised by DES, including water quality and the discharge of chlorinated water from the pool into Pettee Brook. Other issues identified by DES, including an undersized filtration system and inadequate circulation, have not been addressed as they would require significant changes to the existing pool.
How much does it cost the university to maintain the pool each year?
The cost varies widely due to the unpredictable nature of the repairs needed to keep it open. The pool has operated at a loss for each of the past nine years.
Has the university made any improvements to the pool over the years?
Yes. The most recent improvements were focused on meeting the changing federal laws regarding anti-entrapment devices as well as ADA provisions for accessibility.
What are the university’s plans to expand the Hamel Recreation Center? How will those plans affect the pool?
As part of the Campus Master Plan, the university will address a long-standing need for expanded recreational fitness facilities for its students. We have decided that meeting this need is best accomplished by expanding the existing Hamel Recreation Center, but we are early in the process of looking at options for that expansion. At the same time, we are considering the future of the pool, including options for renovating and upgrading the existing facility. No decisions have been made. However, plans for recreation facilities are not driving decisions about the future of the pool.
Is the university open to meeting with Durham residents and town officials about the pool?
Absolutely. We have been working with town leadership to coordinate at least one public session, but at their recommendation we are waiting for the summer vacation season to end to ensure more people can attend.
Who at the university has the final say on whether the pool remains open or closed? And when is the university hoping to make a decision?
As with other aspects of the campus master planning process, recommendations from various working groups, informed by input from a variety of stakeholders, will be presented to the president’s cabinet for consideration and decisions. Following our schedule, we expect decisions associated with both the recreation center and the outdoor pool to be made this fall.
Why does the University have concerns about the safety of the pool when DES says it is okay?
UNH has reviewed the extensive list of ways the existing outdoor pool does not meet current standards for public swimming pools and concluded that the cumulative effect creates an unacceptable level of risk of injury or illness. Put another way, the existing pool does not meet the level of health and safety the public generally expects of UNH. While DES may say the pool meets minimum standards, UNH believes higher standards are necessary.
What are the major concerns UNH has about the pool?
We are primarily concerned about the undersized filtration system and poor circulation of water within the pool, the lack of gutters and a bottom cleaning system to deal with dirt and debris that fall into the pool, and the safety challenges posed by sections of steeply sloped bottom, by periods when water clarity is reduced due to inadequate filtration, and by the dark bottom, which together can make it hard to see swimmers under the surface.
UNH has indicated that sustainability is an issue with the existing pool. Please explain.
The existing pool uses 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of water per day from the UNH/Durham water system. Based on average pool use over the summer, that is more than 100 gallons per day per user. This draw places a significant demand on our water supply system. If the surface area were reduced, evaporation loss would be reduced and less replacement water necessary.
Why does UNH think a smaller pool should be considered?
Based on the programs supported by the outdoor pool and the level of use of the pool by the UNH and Durham communities, UNH believes a pool as small as 10,000 square feet would be adequate. A smaller pool would be more economical to operate and maintain and would use less water. Less money would have to be invested in pumps, filters, piping and chemical treatment systems. We also believe a smaller pool could provide the same or better amenities, including the zero entrance area, graduated depths, lap lanes, proper shower and changing facilities and enhanced social space. Currently much of the area around the pool is not accessible and not used for socializing. Expanding the area available for this purpose could better meet the needs of the community. Although UNH believes a 10,000 square-foot pool would be adequate, the alternatives being studied include a range of larger pools, as well as upgrading the existing pool.
Why can’t the existing pool be saved?
It can. The question is at what cost. Our pool consultant studied upgrading the existing pool to fully meet current standards and estimated the cost of $6.6 million. We have not yet determined the cost of addressing only the most serious of the deficiencies but anticipate the cost to be significant. Retaining the current 1.7 million gallon pool would mean sizing filtration and circulation systems for that volume of water.
The pool is the last example of a WPA pool in the state if not the country. Shouldn’t it be preserved?
It is correct that WPA contributed funds toward the project, but available records suggest the WPA share was less than half the cost. Much of the total cost went toward the filtration and circulation system. Of the visible portions of the 1937 project, much has been altered over time. We anticipate reviewing the history of the pool with the N.H. Division of Historic Resources and working with them in meeting our obligations as a state institution.