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Murky Water Concerns Close Five Providence Pools

Jason Scott

Safety concerns prompted city officials in Providence, R.I. to close the city’s five public pools on Friday, the day before a four-day heat wave struck the city.

The Providence Journal reports that Evan England, the mayor’s press secretary, said that heavy rains during the week offset the chemical balance of the pool water. This caused calcium in the water to crystalize into a substance called scale. Scale crystals are too small for pool filters to remove, and lingered in the pool making the water cloudy.

“Lifeguards need to see the bottom,” England said.

Pool operators have been more cognizant of water clarity issues since the June 2011 drowning of a Newport woman in a public pool in Fall River, Mass. The water in that case was so murky that her body was undetected in the deep end of the pool for two days while patrons continued to use the pool.

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Massachusetts officials said the murky water in that case should have kept the pool from opening.

“Water clarity was the primary factor in preventing lifeguards from being alerted to the drowning,” said Carl Rudge, the lead investigator.

The pool was drained and closed until the following year. Several people lost their jobs.

England said that in order to reopen the Providence pools, the crystals of calcium would need to be removed, or chemically changed back into a liquid.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island was hit with it’s first heat wave in two years. Starting on Saturday, temperatures reached or surpassed 90 degrees every day through Tuesday.

To compensate for the closure, the city began shuttling swimmers in Recreation Department vans to nearby pools at the South Side Boys & Girls Club and Pleasant View High School.

“We’re doing everything that we can,” England said. “In the meantime, under this arrangement, anybody who arrives is going to get the opportunity to catch a shuttle to one of the pool locations.”

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