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Powell Aquatic Center to close March 12 for repairs, maintenance

Sections of a wall in the eight-lane pool have peeled, due to a problem with the finish material. ‘There are no problems with the concrete,’ said David Burbach, the project engineer. Sections of a wall in the eight-lane pool have peeled, due to a problem with the finish material. ‘There are no problems with the concrete,’ said David Burbach, the project engineer. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

Water will be drained from the Powell Aquatic Center next week so crews can fix places where the surface is flaking off and complete annual maintenance at the facility.

The aquatic center is slated to close Saturday, March 12, for four weeks, with an anticipated reopening on April 10.

Soon after the aquatic center opened in May, swimmers and city staff noticed that, in isolated sections of the pool, areas of the surface along the walls and floor had swelled underwater, resulting in small sections of peeling material in both the recreation pool and the eight-lane pool.

“As many of you are aware, with any new project, there are always bumps in the road: One of our bumps is the phenomenon in our pool vessels with the cementitious material peeling away from the cement body of the pool and flaking off,” wrote Aquatics Director Carrie Parmer in a letter to pool users, noting it’s an aesthetic problem, not a structural one.

“It doesn’t affect the structural integrity at all. It just doesn’t look nice and can be rough on the feet,” Parmer said in an interview.

“The concrete underneath is fine,” said City Administrator Zane Logan. “Contrary to rumors around Powell, there are no water leaks in either vessel. The structure is sound.”

The pool was scheduled to close for about a week for annual maintenance this spring, and officials decided to coincide the surface repairs with that closure. The anticipated month-long closure does not conflict with competitive swimming schedules.

Parmer said most swimmers have been understanding about the closure and just want the pool to be fixed.

“They’re very proud of the facility and want it to be the best it can be,” she said.

“They understand we need to fix it, and they want it fixed,” Logan added.

More than 24,700 swimmers have used the pool since the facility opened last May. The pool has 721 annual members and 448 punch-pass holders.

Memberships will be extended one month at no cost due to the extended closure, Parmer said.

An ultraviolet disinfectant system also will be installed during the closure, she said.

With the new disinfectant system, a chamber is installed in the piping system of the mechanical room. Inside that chamber, ultraviolet light will be blasted through the water, breaking down organics and killing microorganisms, such as giardia, Parmer wrote in her letter.

“Utilizing UV disinfection will reduce the amount of chlorine used in our pools and the ‘pool smell’ will be reduced,” and that will create a more pleasant experience for swimmers, Parmer wrote.

Parmer said the system is unique, and the Powell Aquatic Center will become one of only a few in the state to use a UV disinfectant system.

“There aren’t a lot of facilities in Wyoming that have the luxury of having one,” she said.

Overages from the 1 cent sales tax will cover the cost of UV system and installation, which is expected to cost around $70,000.

Because the aquatic center is under warranty and the city hasn’t signed off on the facility yet, Sletten Construction of Wyoming, the general contractor of the project, will cover the cost of surface repairs, Logan said.

Shawn Warner, president of Sletten Construction of Wyoming, said Sletten is working interactively with the city and Burbach Aquatics, developing a process to address the problem.

Once the pools are drained, crews will remove all loose material that has peeled off, pressure wash the area, sandblast it and grind the areas to create a smooth pool vessel surface, said David Burbach, the project engineer with Burbach Aquatics.

“If any holes open up, they’ll use an epoxy putty to fill it in,” he said.

The areas will then be repainted.

“This really should take care of it,” Burbach said.

Burbach said it isn’t the paint itself that is flaking off, but rather, the finish below the paint that’s failing.

The problem occurred because the electrical charge of the concrete was incompatible with the charge of the finish, preventing it from bonding or adhering, Burbach said.

The type of finish that originally caused the problem will not be re-applied to the sections that peeled, Burbach said.

“For new pools, it is customary to have some delamination of the pool finish, which does not cause damage to the pool vessels. The areas where the pool finish fails tend to be small and isolated,” stated a Burbach Aquatics release on the issue.

Burbach said areas that are flaking off account for less than 1 percent of the surface of both pools. Surface peeling, or delamination, is a common issue in pools; it can occur on up to 5 percent of the surface area in outdoor pools, he added.

“I know it’s terrible, but in pool construction, it’s really not that bad,” he said.

City leaders are hopeful the fix will work the first time.

“Once we’re done with this process, we don’t want to revisit it,” said Gary Butts, public services manager.

Workers will sound out the surface to make sure they’ve located all the problem areas, Butts said.

By waiting until March to repair the peeling surface, areas where the finish failed have been revealed, Logan said.

“Anything that’s going to loosen up has now shown itself,” Logan said.

Parmer encouraged residents who have questions about the pool closure to call the aquatic center at 754-0639.


  • posted by Woody

    March 14, 2011 6:01 pm

    This won't be the last time for this problem. It came up during construction and it did not get addressed properly then. Its going to keep happening for quite a few years until the product that was used as directed by the architect is removed and the proper one applied. The only mistake made here was hiring the wrong company to design this building. Now Powell has to live with it. Mr. Butts & Ms. Palmer are doing the best they can with the pig they were sold.
    Good luck Powell.

  • posted by Salty Dawg

    March 03, 2011 9:51 am

    Gee, I can hardly wait until my next water bill.....they have to pay for this someway.

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