Emerald seas at McDermott due to heat exchanger leak


St. Patrick’s Day came a little early this year at McDermott Pool, as the water in the main pool is emerald green.

But Jim Dorney, facilities manager of McDermott Pool and Thayer Arena, said the water is safe for swimming.

So, what’s the culprit? No, it’s not a tricky leprechaun. Rather, it’s a leaky heat exchanger that’s located between the new boiler system and the pool.

“Pool water runs through it, so sometimes corrosion gets to the pipes,” Dorney said during a phone interview yesterday. “The chlorine is reacting with copper and turning the pool emerald. Copper and chlorinated water equals green. There’s no two ways about it. It’s kind of like when you wear a cheap silver bracelet and your wrist turns green.”

Dorney ran a few tests and noted that the chlorine levels are fine. Also, the pool is free of bacteria.

“It’s strictly aesthetic,” he said. “I wouldn’t open the pool if it wasn’t safe.”

As a precaution, Dorney closed the deep end of the main pool located at 925 Sandy Lane Tuesday evening when he noticed the problem. It started out as a light green tinge and gradually became darker.

“I didn’t have to, but I wanted to just to be safe,” he said. “It’s a little darker than usual so we didn’t want to have any issues. There are people swimming in it now.”

While Dorney said most people enter the pool after he informs them of the situation, some refuse to swim.

“A ton of my regulars are saying, ‘Oh, that’s pretty neat,’ and they are not hesitating to jump in,” he said. “Others are saying, ‘Eww. It’s green,’ and I don’t blame them because pool water is not supposed to be green.”

To remedy the issue, Dorney was able to obtain a temporary heat exchanger. He also ordered a new one, which he anticipates will arrive in about four weeks.

“You can’t go get a heat exchanger for a 300,000-gallon pool at Lowe’s,” he said. “You have to order them and we were very lucky that [Superintendent of Buildings] Joe Blake had an exchanger at City Hall when they converted the heating system from hot water, so that will hold us until we get it.”

A new heat exchanger costs nearly $5,000, which will come out of Dorney’s repair budget. The 15,000-gallon therapeutic pool has not been impacted by the incident.

Last month, the facility acquired a new boiler system that was recently installed.

“The boilers are working perfectly, it’s just that one piece in between,” Dorney said.


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