Swimmers will have to wait a little longer before enjoying the Cougar Pool at SIUE.
Workers filled the pool in anticipation of opening for the summer, but were surprised when the water level dropped 15 inches overnight. There’s a “significant leak” in the pipe system that draws water into the filters and recirculates back into the pool, and it’s taken some time to figure it out, according to SIUE Vice Chancellor for Administration Rich Walker.
“I know they’re disappointed since there’s been a couple of hot weekends and they’re missing revenue,” SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga said.
The pool is on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, but leased to the city of Edwardsville, which operates it as a municipal pool in cooperation with Glen Carbon.
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Walker said the city has replaced the perimeter piping, and is now bringing in a special machine to go underground into the pipes themselves to put in an interior coating that will seal up the leaks.
“That’s what’s taking so long,” Walker said. “They worked on the easiest areas first, then moved into the deeper areas … When they finish, they will have replaced almost every possible pipe. That should be good news going forward.”
City Administrator Tim Harr said the pipe repair system they will use has been used on sewer lines and manholes, lining the interior surface of the pipes with a quarter-inch of material. This allows them to repair leaks without having to excavate, he said, saving as much as 75 percent of the cost.
However, there’s no way to know for sure when the pool might reopen. “It has to cure in place with no water, and filling the pool alone takes a couple of days,” Harr said. “The very best case scenario might be next weekend … We are doing our best to get it back open again.”
City public works director Eric Williams said the very best-case scenario, in which every part of the repair goes perfectly, would put the pool opening for next weekend. That’s tentative, of course, because after the repairs are completed, the pool has to be filled, treated and tested before it can open.
Williams said while much of the work is being done with city crews, the liner repair will cost $30,000.
The pool is leased to the city for $1 per year, plus parking costs. Maintenance is generally the city’s responsibility, Walker said. “This one has just turned out to be bigger than usual,” he said. “The city and university are working together to get it open as quickly as we can.”
The pool, which includes a slide and “splash pad” area for younger children, sits at the end of an access road off a parking lot. The fenced-in pool area overlooks Cougar Lake and its adjacent picnic areas, which also serve as frequent nesting grounds for the famous SIUE geese.
The university planned to close the pool for budgetary reasons last year, and the city opted to lease it to provide recreational swimming to residents after many years of attempting to make a city pool feasible.