Clean it or close it

The city should clean Sycamore Pool each week

Should the city keep Sycamore Pool open this summer? That’s the question we’re asking this week, after learning the site is being cleaned only every two to three weeks, rather than the weekly scrubdown it used to get.

We found this out only after reading a local blogger’s story about the water there potentially making a member of the public ill. Then we came upon photos of a condom floating in the pool, along with other foul litter. It sounded an alarm for us, and it’s been like pulling teeth to get a straight story from the city.

We finally learned that the change to a biweekly schedule goes back to 2011. But based on a report this week by Howard Hardee (see Newslines, page 8), the only public mention of the stepped-down schedule came in a staff report presented in July of that year to the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission. There was no official public announcement and that lack of transparency is concerning.

Park officials maintain that the pool’s bacterial levels do not exceed the threshold considered unsafe for swimming, and the water is tested weekly. But we also learned that the city is going by outdated county standards that are less stringent than those of the Environmental Protection Agency and the state.

The city’s Park and Natural Resources manager told Hardee that there are signs at the park warning people that they are swimming at their own risk. But we call bullshit. The signs he’s referring to are there to warn people about swimming when lifeguards aren’t on duty. They have nothing to do with the cleanliness of the pool.

After conducting research, there are good reasons to return to a weekly schedule. First of all, considering the city’s longtime practice was cleaning the pool weekly, the public expects it. Additionally, the water these days is warmer and more prone to bacteria, and more swimmers than ever are putting stress on the site. Most important, though, are those EPA standards that the pool has exceeded on at least two occasions this year.

Our advice: Clean it or close it.