The pool at Wade King Student Recreation Center could receive an ultraviolet filtration system if stakeholders accept a proposal by Western students.
These pools use ultraviolet light to break apart and destroy the harmful chemicals in a way that standard chlorine cannot, said Western senior Daniel Soloff.
Soloff and Western junior Bethany Hasper are students in the Campus Sustainability Planning Studio course who will give a presentation next week to the rec center, environmental studies representatives and other stakeholders explaining how and why they plan to change the pool’s ecology, Hasper said.
About 91 percent of Western students have used the rec center pool at least once, according to a June 2012 study by the course students. The chlorine in the pool combines with human waste products such as dead skin, sweat and urine to create chloramines, Hasper said.
Hasper said chloramines irritate the eyes, fill the air with a “chlorine-y” smell and can accelerate swimsuit deterioration. However, Campus Sustainability Manager Seth Vidana said the rec center pool isn't dangerous.
“No one’s saying the pool isn’t safe to swim in,” Vidana said. “What the student teams are looking for is a way to make the swimming experience more pleasant for people who are using the pool.”
Vidana is also the instructor for the Campus Sustainability Planning Studio course. The course is responsible for other sustainability projects around campus, such as solar panels on the roof of the rec center and the water bottle refilling stations in Arntzen Hall, Old Main and the rec center, Vidana said.
The idea for the project came to Soloff a year ago when swimming was recommended to him as a therapy to recover from an injury, he said. While at the rec center pool, he started a conversation with a friend.
They were both irritated by the air and water quality of the pool. Soloff's friend discussed a saltwater pool, which are more sanatary than normal chlorine pools. When he first took the studio class, Soloff proposed the idea of converting the rec center pool into a saltwater pool.
The original intent for the project was to replace the chlorine pool with a saltwater pool, which uses salt as a cleaning agent instead of chlorine, Hasper said. That idea was largely scrapped when she and Soloff discovered it would require a a costly reconstruction of the pool, which was originally built in 2003, Hasper said.
Soloff and Hasper broadened their research and decided on a system in which the pool water enters a chamber that exposes it with ultraviolet light, Soloff said.
“The pool, after that process, is then further sanitized with chlorine in the normal system.” Soloff said. “So you still have a chlorine-based pool, however, with the additional UV-treatments system, the irritants are all removed because the chloramines are destroyed.”
If the project gets the approval it needs, they can acquire funding in spring and implement it in one year, Hasper said.
Vidana said funding would be provided by the Green Energy Fee Grant program, which most students pay $7 for at the beginning of each quarter for the purpose of funding green energy projects. Hasper and Soloff said they have no concrete information on the costs of the project, but they estimated it to be between $40,000 and $50,000.
Hasper and Soloff will give a presentation of their findings to rec center staff which is open to the community from 12-1:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 and on Dec. 6 from 4-5:30 p.m., both in Communications Facility 125, Hasper said.