EL’s top pool a ‘health crisis’ with high acidity levels

With prestige gala imminent, time running out to get facility into shape

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Red eyes, dry skin and discoloured teeth and gums are what East London resident Russell Tharratt and his family experienced after swimming in the Joan Harrison pools over the past week.
Tharratt, an avid swimmer who trains at the Joan Harrison every day, said that because of this, he had the pool’s Ph levels tested by a local pool company on Thursday.
The results revealed a Ph level far below the recommended Ph of 7.2 to 7.8.
“When the water was tested, the solution went completely yellow, way below the 6.8 mark,” said Tharratt.
“The water was really bad and acidic this week and the pools are green. You can see the particles and algae in the water.”
According to Amakhosi Club Masters swimming coach Joe Hillstrom, a Ph level that is too low creates a hypochloric solution which is not only bad for skin, teeth and eyes, but also eats away at the grout between pool tiles.
Once tests were done, Hillstrom called Buffalo City Metro and soda ash was added to the swimming pools on Thursday, improving the Ph levels.
The Daily Dispatch visited the Joan Harrison on Friday, paying the R15 entrance fee before being greeted by a green 50m Olympic swimming pool and greener diving pool.
Despite the murky water, over 50 bathers were enjoying the sunshine and splashing around on Friday morning.
“The water acidity is much better today and it won’t harm anyone, but there is still so much that needs to be done. In two days this water could be as clear and as blue as the sky with a bit of effort,” said Hillstrom, who has been a swimming coach for more than 30 years and spends much of his time at the Joan Harrison training swimmers, young and old.
Hillstrom said that the pools were one of South Africa’s best swimming facilities, but the maintenance and upkeep to the area was “shocking”.
He said that even the grass surrounding the pools had to be cut by a private company before the 2018 Schools Water Polo tournament was hosted at the Joan Harrison in December.
“I’ve been fighting it for years. There is so much that should be done regularly to keep the water quality up and maintain the area,” said Hillstrom.
“Water tests should be done at least four times a day, because the weather and other factors are always changing.”
The Cape Town Metro Aquatics Inter Districts Prestige Gala is set to take place at the Joan Harrison on January 12, and swimmers hope the pools will be fit to host visitors by next week.
BCM did not respond to questions on Thursday or Friday, despite various attempts to contact them...

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