By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Swimmers who frequent the Pahoa Aquatic Center will have to get their fix elsewhere during the next six months.
Hawaii County will begin on Monday a $1.55 million upgrade to the facility, including an expansion to the building, a reconfiguring of its pumps, circulation piping and filtration system, and addressing of recurring leaks that have impacted the daily operation of the pool.
Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. has been awarded the project, which will require the complete draining of the pool.
“Contract terms also call for installing roof-mounted solar heating panels to help warm the pool water, a new variable frequency drive to manage the pump motors more efficiently, and performing various repairs and safety upgrades to the facility,” reads a release issued by the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
According to Jason Armstrong, the department’s public information officer, some of the repairs will solve an issue that has resulted in major headaches for parks and recreation employees.
“What had happened was that with the electrical pump system, occasionally, the power would trip off (due to utility outages). When that would happen, the pumps would shut off, and the pool would start draining because the pumps were up high. … They’d start pumping air, even if it just went off for a few minutes,” Armstrong said.
“That meant they had to reprime the pump system, and if there was no one there at the time it happened, it could create real problems for them. … By having new pumps and relocating their location, by having the pump submerged, we won’t have (that problem).”
The upgrades should also result in cleaner water and power consumption savings due to more efficient operation, he said.
“The new equipment means a couple things,” Armstrong said. “One, it means the water will be circulated more frequently, meaning it will be cleaned more frequently. Secondly, the filtration system is being upgraded as well, to filter out more pollutants or foreign matter.”
The work will also bring the Pahoa pool into compliance with a federal law mandating the replacement of swimming pool drain covers. Similar repairs have already been completed at the county’s other swimming facilities, including the NAS Pool, the Sparky Kawamoto Swim Stadium in Hilo, the Konawaena Swimming Pool, and the Kona Community Aquatic Center Pool.
In 2007, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, named after the 7-year-old girl who drowned in 2002 after she was trapped underwater by the suction from a hot tub drain.
The law mandated that within a year of its enactment, all public pools and spas be retrofitted with drain covers that complied with new federal standards that prevented the possibility of entrapment. In April, Armstrong explained that the county had not met the one-year deadline due to budgeting and cost concerns, adding that the county was making progress, and therefore the deadline would be waived.
Initially, the county had anticipated beginning work on the Pahoa pool project some time after Nov. 1, but ran into a delay in awarding the contract, he added.
“Apparently, the low bidder didn’t meet all the requirements and was disqualified,” Armstrong said.
The contract was awarded to Isemoto on Dec. 21.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.